Only a fool would see Lovelace for the sex. The busy-but-dour drama by co-directors Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman (Howl, The Celluloid Closet) bypasses the titillation of Boogie Nights in telling the story of Linda Lovelace, aka Porn Superstar Number One, leading lady of the epochal 1972 XXX fuck-flick Deep Throat. Sure, they get the fashions, the facial hair, and the disco soundtrack right, but the way Epstein, Friedman, and screenwriter Andy Bellin (Trust) view the world of Davie, Florida’s Linda Boreman, her life is more of a bleak cautionary tale. As in: Don’t fall for a pimp, and: Don’t believe everything your mother tells you.
We could also add: Don’t become a roller rink go-go girl. That’s where opportunistic hustler Chuck Traynor (Peter Sarsgaard, hilariously mutton-chopped) first spots young Linda (Amanda Seyfried, playing dumb and doomed), who’s bored with her uptight parents (Sharon Stone and Robert Patrick) and anxious to forget her unwanted baby, given up for adoption. After a few lessons in the sack, smooth Chuck dangles Linda and her newfound affinity for fellatio in front of a cabal of Nik Nik-shirted Al Colognes in the adult film business — filmmaker Jerry Damiano (Hank Azaria), his sidekick Butchie Peraino (Bobby Cannavale), and the chief money extractor, Anthony Romano (Chris Noth) — who see dollar signs in their new actress’ mouth. The road to hell opens up and Linda takes a long walk on it with outclassed Chuck at her side, cuffing her.
Deep Throat, of course, was one of the kitsch-cultural high points of the Me Decade. Porno chic flowered, and everyone from Johnny Carson to Hugh Hefner (the ubiquitous James Franco) made a buck off it. The movie’s end titles repeat the claim that Deep Throat made $600 million — an impossible figure considering the average movie ticket price in the mid-Seventies was less than $2.50 — but it’s undeniable that pathetic Linda (she died in 2002) never earned more than about $1,200 for her efforts. And Chuck spent all of that. Today, her talents wouldn’t be worth a dime.