David Strat­ton is im­pressed by Lovelace

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Contents - David Strat­ton

ON the evening of Oc­to­ber 21, 1972, I went to the North Beach cin­ema in San Fran­cisco to see Deep Throat, a 62-minute porn film di­rected by ‘‘ Jerry Ger­ard’’, whose real name was Ger­ard Dami­ano, and star­ring Linda Lovelace.

I wasn’t very in­ter­ested in porn films but Deep Throat was some­thing rather dif­fer­ent; hailed by one critic as ‘‘ the Ben-Hur of hard-core’’, the film even was re­viewed (favourably) in the au­gust trade jour­nal Va­ri­ety, whose critic Ad­di­son Ver­rill found it ‘‘ a su­pe­rior piece ... above par. Per­for­mances are spir­ited, es­pe­cially that of the femme lead . . . put to­gether with some style.’’

What was un­usual about the evening was that the cin­ema was filled with cou­ples; Deep Throat was one of a hand­ful of porn films that aimed for au­di­ences be­yond male-only en­claves; they were dubbed ‘‘ porn chic’’.

Lovelace seemed to be en­joy­ing her eye­pop­ping ac­tiv­i­ties in the film, and her sense of hu­mour el­e­vated what was, of course, ex­tremely mod­est ma­te­rial.

Years later, when she told her side of the story, a dif­fer­ent pic­ture emerged, not least that she was paid a re­ported $1250 for her role in a film that grossed an es­ti­mated $600 mil­lion.

For their first dra­matic fea­ture, Lovelace, di­rec­tors Rob Ep­stein and Jef­frey Fried­man (who made The Times of Har­vey Milk, among other high-qual­ity doc­u­men­taries) have at­tempted, with con­sid­er­able suc­cess, to tell the dis­turb­ing story of Linda, ex­tremely well played by Amanda Seyfried, who we first meet liv­ing with her par­ents, played by Robert Pa­trick and an al­most un­recog­nis­able Sharon Stone, in sub­ur­ban Mi­ami. By be­gin­ning the film at this point, the di­rec­tors and screen­writer Andy Bellin gloss over her early life, which con­sisted of an un­happy childhood in New York, in­volve­ment in a cou­ple of traf­fic ac­ci­dents and an early preg­nancy (the child was adopted).

The film cuts to the chase, pick­ing up Linda’s story when she meets Chuck Traynor (played by Peter Sars­gaard, an ac­tor who seems to be mak­ing a ca­reer of play­ing sleazy char­ac­ters), who in short or­der se­duces her and, when her par­ents throw her out, mar­ries her. Traynor teaches her to ex­pand her sex­ual hori­zons and en­cour­ages her to have sex with other men, some­times for money. He also ar­ranges for her to play the role of the hero­ine in Deep Throat, a com­edy in which the sex­u­ally ac­tive hero­ine has never ex­pe­ri­enced an or­gasm un­til — well, I’ll leave it to your imag­i­na­tion.

The scenes of the film’s pro­duc­tion are as in­ti­mately de­tailed as it’s pos­si­ble to be in a main­stream pro­duc­tion, with Hank Azaria’s Dami­ano suit­ably im­pressed by his young star’s prow­ess and Adam Brody ef­fort­lessly charm­ing as Linda’s leg­en­dar­ily well-en­dowed co-star while the shady money men (Bobby Can­navale, Chris Noth) can hardly con­tain them­selves at the prospect of all that rev­enue.

At the time of its re­lease, many peo­ple saw Deep Throat as a nat­u­ral part of the sex­ual rev­o­lu­tion, but the film clev­erly un­der­cuts that per­cep­tion. Ep­stein and Fried­man di­vide Linda’s story into two parts, the first part, up to and in­clud­ing the hugely suc­cess­ful re­lease of the film — with Linda be­ing feted by celebri­ties such as Sammy Davis Jr and Hugh Hefner, played by James Franco — plays like a tra­di­tional suc­cess story in which a ta­lented young­ster be­comes a star. But then the dark side of Linda’s story is de­picted and scenes are re­peated, but from a dif­fer­ent, more sin­is­ter per­spec­tive. Sud­denly the whole thing ap­pears un­bear­ably squalid and de­mean­ing, Linda’s ex­ploita­tion by Traynor takes on a new di­men­sion, and the poster girl for the new mo­ral­ity be­comes a vic­tim. The film doesn’t ex­plore Linda’s late-in-life con­ver­sion to Chris­tian­ity or her ad­dic­tion to drugs but it does

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