Linda Boreman (Amanda Seyfried) shot to fame in the early nineteen-seventies as one of the most famous porn stars of all time, and it all rested on her performance in one film, Deep Throat. She was the subject of jokes in the media, newspaper and magazine articles, after dinner conversations across the world, and more, but she started out as a relatively innocent young woman who happened to meet one Chuck Traynor (Peter Sarsgaard) through her friend Patsy (Juno Temple), who she was attracted to, and though her mother (Sharon Stone) controlled her life since she had fallen pregnant as a teenager she saw him as the strong influence Linda needed...
The theme of bad influences was prominent in this biopic of Linda Lovelace, whether that be her cold hearted mother or her husband, or pretty much everyone else, with the central figure very much a representation of innocence lost, corrupted and generally taken advantage of. I know, you're saying, this was a look behind the scenes at the pornography industry which found it seriously soul-destroying for the participants, so what else is new? New didn't really enter into it as Linda's tale of woe was more or less the template for many an unfortunate who wound up having sex on camera for the audience's appreciation, and the filmmakers' efforts here were disappointingly plain.
Not that they should have dressed this up with whistles and bells and made it all-singing, all-dancing porno tomfoolery, but Paul Thomas Anderson's Boogie Nights had nothing to fear from this as the definitive look at the ups and downs of the porno chic movement of the seventies. Although the era was carefully production designed into existence in this case, you were never convinced you were watching anything other than famous actors and actresses playing dressing up: James Franco as an inevitable Hugh Hefner was one of the more blatant examples of stunt casting, as was Chloë Sevigny in a single shot as a journalist, purely there because she had performed unsimulated oral sex in a movie, just as Linda Lovelace had.
Which begged the question, did the directors actually know what they were trying to convey, or had the contradictory messages of Linda's story overwhelmed them? We follow her through her meeting and marriage to Chuck until he persuades or forces her to appear in Deep Throat, an adult film made as so many were with gangster money, though in this case it's the husband who our heroine should be more concerned with than the hoods making most of the money out of her. This was not a titillating work, Seyfried appeared topless in a two or three scenes but there was little here deliberately intended to turn the audience on, as the amount of crying that went on proved this was more a guilt trip for anyone who had enjoyed porn without considering the story behind it.
And in its way, as the real woman would have presumably wished, it was a story of domestic violence, the first half telling us of her rise to fame with sinister hints of what was going on behind the scenes, then the second half filled in the gaps as we understood Linda had been going through the ordeal she latterly said had occurred. There was a problem with that, however, one which was never so much as mentioned by the film, and that was just how much she had embellished her story when she had come under the influence of anti-pornography campaigners. It was clear Chuck had been an abusive husband, but uncomfortably there were those who were less than accomodating to feminism who took Linda's account as an example of all that was wrong about female empowerment since many of the details of her books would not stand up to scrutiny, and were contradicted by those who were around at the time. There's nothing of that here, but if there had it would have made for something more substantial than this curiously bland mope which did no justice to its subject. Music by Stephen Trask.