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Cowardly Snapshot Of Linda Lovelace's Life Is Flat And Reductive

Rating: 2 / 5

Roe McDermott, 05 Sep 2013

The complex career of Deep Throat star Linda Lovelace is simplified into a narrow series of vignettes by directors Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman. Amanda Seyfried is excellent as sweet girl-next-door Lovelace, whose domineering husband Chuck Taylor (Peter Sarsgaard) coerces her into starring in the aforementioned 1971 porn film that was to become a worldwide phenomenon.

The directors make a questionable choice in the film’s structure. The first half is a breezy portrayal of Lovelace and Taylor’s courtship, the making of Deep Throat, and Lovelace’s newfound fame. With a permed Hank Azaria and Bobby Canavale as Miami Vice wannabe pornographers and an impeccable design by William Arnold, the innate cheesiness of the era is matched by a light and funny tone. In the second half, however, the directors recap the action, showing the terrifying emotional, physical and sexual assault that Taylor was inflicting on Lovelace behind the scenes, including beatings and a gang-rape.

Instead of acting as a Funny Games-style commentary on audience voyeurism and complicit participation, the approach instead feels cowardly and emotionally shallow. The harrowing events are presented flatly, swiftly and in a sanitised manner, the abuse taking place off-camera just like the infamous fellatio.  Sure, it’s porn and rape but it doesn’t want to be too controversial.

The swift run-time also fails to address Lovelace’s fascinating life before or after Deep Throat, her battle with substance abuse, devout Catholicism and anti-porn activism. For a film that purports to criticise those who reduced Lovelace to a sex object, it seems determined to strip her down to nothing more than Chuck Taylor’s porn star victim.

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