Remember that movie ‘Howl’, the one that was supposed to net James Franco an Oscar? Yeah, I don’t either. I mean, I remember it only because it had that early-hype due to subject and actor, but I never saw it and I really don’t think many people who didn’t stumble into it while it made the festival circuit did either. It was directed by these two guys, Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman, and it got so-so reviews and basically disappeared.
This should have all been a sign.
I remember back in the early months of 2013, when I was considering predictions for the 2013 Oscars (yes, I’m an addict) and a name that I kept flirting with was Amanda Seyfried. She was all over the red carpets for ‘Les Miserables’ and many people were saying that she was breaking through, finally, after years of basically being ignored or taking a backseat. I mean, she technically took a backseat then too, to Anne Hathaway, but she was a red carpet sensation and people were taking notice. Then it was announced that she was going to be playing Linda Lovelace and it just felt like a sign from heaven. Young starlet getting the role of a lifetime playing the most recognizable name in the adult film industry. It doesn’t hurt that that name is attached to a very well-known film and that star was abused in multiple ways by multiple people.
Talk about Oscar bait.
The problem with ‘Lovelace’ is that it lacks any style to make the substance, which is there, feel fresh and exciting. The grungy want that it is filmed (to emulate the porn era) is interesting and then dull at the same time (been there done that) and while the two-fold storytelling (telling the story twice, once glossed over and the second brutally honest) it isn’t enough to give the film the needed umph. The character development is scarce (Look scared Seyfried! Act mean Sarsgaard!) and this dampens the impact that this film, and her life, could have had.
Linda Lovelace was brought up in a strict home and she was a merely curious young woman swept off her feet by a no good man who pretended to be good until he put a ring on her finger and then decided to beat her and sell her out for her body in order to pay his debts. Epstein and Friedman have no visual style or storytelling skills and so the film really feels flat. It doesn’t help that Seyfried’s performance is so bland and uninspired, and this really could have been an undeniable knock out role for her. Sarsgaard fares slightly better, since he has a flashy character, but we’ve seen him play a sleaze MANY times, and he’s done it far better before (this is reminiscent of his turn in ‘Boys Don’t Cry’ except not as fresh or as memorable). Honestly, Chris Noth and Bobby Cannavale are the most memorable presences in this film, and they don’t really do a whole lot except ‘fit’.
Don’t even get me started on James Franco’s TERRIBLE cameo as Hugh Hefner.
At the end of the day, ‘Lovelace’ isn’t offensive or bad as much as it’s pointless, and that’s sad. What is it with all these boring directors getting their hands on baity biopics? I mean, I understand that the biopic is becoming a tired genre, but true auteurs have given such life to these stories in the past. In the right hands, this could have been a grittier, more violent ‘Boogie Nights’, but instead this feels like a Lifetime movie.
I give this a C-. Like I said, it's nothing offensively bad but it is utterly forgettable and gives us nothing we haven't already seen before, and done far better. I weep for the promise here.