The seventies heralded the age of the sexual revolution. The age of free love was at its height, second wave feminism was introducing the bizarre notion of equal rights for all to the world once more and the newly available combined pill allowed women for the first time to have control over their sexual lives. This was a time of liberty and freedom and the poster girl for this generation quickly became Linda Lovelace. Lovelace starred in Deep Throat (1972) the first pornographic movie which found a mainstream audience, attracting men and women alike to the movie theatres and she seemed to be the perfect ambassador for the free love generation. But whilst Linda beamed out from the movie poster seemingly totally in charge of her own sexuality and her own life, a very different story was taking place behind the scenes.
Amanda Seyfried brilliantly plays Linda Boreman, a young woman stuck at home with her controlling, traditional mother and quiet father, both of whom are trying to cope with the illegitimate child Linda recently bore that they forced to give up for adoption. When Chuck Trayner (a vomit inducingly brilliant Peter Sarsgaard) enters her life, Linda is swept away with the freedom and excitement he promises. Before too long they are married, but warning signs quickly appear. The story of how Deep Throat came to be is shown not once, but twice revising events as how people chose to see them and how they actually were. The version Linda chooses to present to the world is quite different from the one behind closed doors. There she is pimped to other men and beaten and raped by her husband. The warning signs are there but people are making too much money out of Linda’s subjugation to care.
Lovelace is an extremely affecting film. The first half undoubtedly makes the porn industry look like fun, with several characters telling Linda that porn stars have the best job in the world. As Deep Throat becomes increasingly successful, Linda is invited to bigger parties and attains more and more wealth, but Chuck’s jealousy of her new found success and fame results only in bigger beatings and a tighter grip around the money she has been forced into earning for the couple because of his addictions and desire for dominance.
This is a film about power and it becomes increasingly clear that Linda has none. Whilst at home with her parents at the age of 21 she must be back before 11, with Chuck she must take his beatings and be sold to other men because a wife must obey her husband and as the star of Deep Throat it is made specifically clear that Linda is a product ‘and you own the product’ James Franco’s Hugh Hefner grimly states to Chuck before a celebrity screening of Linda’s filmic debut. Shortly after this everyone’s favourite playboy tells Linda during the famous Deep Throat fellatio scene that he feels like ‘this is one of those moments when life imitates art’, essentially forcing the poor young woman to her knees through insinuation. Even when Linda could be celebrating her ‘success’, the reality of the situation is made crystal clear to her – she is only there to be used and please men. Shortly after this scene her husband sells her to five men to be gang raped.
This film is more about the domestic abuse that Linda undergoes and the way that the men in her life turn a blind eye to all the signs of abuse rather than the actual pornography she starred in and it is quite sad that the sex will be the aspect of this film that is focussed on by many. By splitting the film into two, with the second half showing the violence and fear which leads Linda to become involved with porn after the fun and mischievousness the first half exudes makes for extremely uncomfortable viewing. The apparent pin up girl for female sexual liberation is in fact a prisoner of her gender, trapped by the expectations of two different worlds. In one she should be the perfect wife, in the other she is judged and used because of her sexuality and her involvement in the porn industry; essentially she cannot win.
Lovelace is an extremely powerful film and well worth a watch. Some might understandably feel Linda is too meek and too helpless to be truly sympathetic, but Seyfried does a wonderful job of conveying the fear and hopelessness of her situation, surrounded by people all closing their eyes and ears to her situation. The most powerful moment comes just after Linda has been gang raped. She flees from her husband, who chases and forces her to the ground. As Chuck looks over her a police car pulls up and rather than helping her, the police man ask for her autograph. Bloody and bruised she capitulates, the light in her eyes diminishing as the reality hits home that if she is going to get out of this situation she will have to do it alone. That is sadly very often still the case for suffers of domestic abuse.
Lovelace hits UK cinemas from the 23rd August