Top positive review
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innocence, abuse, survival
on August 20, 2013
this is a film with excellent acting and noble intentions, and tells an almost mythical tale of a woman's rise and fall and redemption. the astonishing thing is that the story is real, and we're shown the costumes and sets, excerpts from newscasts and television shows, musical hits of the era to prove it. what's sorely missing, however, especially for viewers born after 1970, is a depiction of the historical predicament of women in the years of early feminism. when two police officers interrupt an abusive episode between lovelace and her husband, and she fails to ask for help, one officer actually asks her for her autograph. the scene doesn't read right unless the viewer is aware that the duty of police to intervene in domestic disputes was not established by law at the time and wouldn't seem to the officers the "correct" thing to do; she wouldn't ask for help knowing those facts. worse, there is no reference to contemporary feminist developments, even though the meager plot of "deep throat" turns on its heroine's demand that she enjoy sex as much as men.
without being lurid, the film dissects the depravity of an abusive marriage, the husband alternating between affection and violence. because this is the part of an abused woman's life often hidden from outsiders, the film tells a large arc of the linda lovelace story "from the outside", as served up by the film publicity events, then reprises the key scenes with "the rest of the story" -- how each of them turned violent or degrading or manipulative. a judgmental mother and ineffectual father fail to help her; she doesn't reach out to her closest friends; investors only see her as a product ... which leaves her husband chuck traynor to use her however he pleases. the mystery is why she put up with it so long -- for that you have to look to the expectations placed on her by her mother and her catholic upbringing, the coercion and threats from her husband, the allurements of fame, but most of all her naive compulsion to please and be loved.
the principals are excellent. peter sarsgaard is almost satanic as the slimy, manipulative, cynical and cowardly husband, cruel to his wife and fawning to men with money, and there's a fine supporting cast to play the pygmies of the porn industry. a scene near the end, when lovelace's parents see her phil donohue interview on TV and finally grasp what their daughter has suffered and their complicity in her affliction, is sad and very powerful. amanda seyfried is convincing where innocence and earnestness are called for, and her natural sweetness comes through in many scenes, but lovelace's real pain is fully revealed only once, in a late night plea to her mother for shelter, and it comes before we see much of the abuse she suffers and seems unmotivated as we watch it. (a later rape scene is also presented without sufficient buildup, so it is shocking but less painful to watch than it should be.) at other moments of desperation or despair, seyfried seems bewildered, as if unsure what the two directors wanted from her -- more likely they were unsure themselves, or how they should handle the script. despite all that, seyfried and sarsgaard give gutsy, ambitious and engrossing performances.