Juicy, horrifying, and controversial, Linda Lovelace's life—throughout which she went from prude teen, to famous (and famously abused) Deep Throat porn actress, to feminist spokesperson—is rich material for a film. The political nuances of Lovelace's experiences—to say nothing of the glamour, drugs, and terror—are worthy of an epic on par with The People vs. Larry Flint or Boogie Nights. But in directors Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman's hands, Lovelace is disappointingly simplified.
In brief: Lovelace (Amanda Seyfried) was raised in a religious home, developing a reputation in her early years for keeping suitors at a cautious distance. Only a few years into adulthood, she met and married Chuck Traynor (Peter Sarsgaard), who she alleged beat, coerced, and pimped her, forcing her to appear in several pornographic films, including a bestiality short she claimed to have participated in at gunpoint. She was also said to have fallen into drug use, and eventually she escaped life with Traynor, wrote several autobiographies (including the tell-all Ordeal), and became an activist against domestic violence and the porn industry.
Lovelace deals primarily with the nightmarish Lovelace-Traynor relationship and Deep Throat, completely ignoring her other film appearances (including the one with the dog) and drug abuse. Lovelace is portrayed as an incredibly naive, anxious-to-please victim, ignoring the fact that a number of people she worked with questioned many of her indictments. This is Lovelace according to Lovelace, full of childlike innocence and heroism, and it's a missed opportunity to explore the fascinating, still-controversial mysteries that surround her.
Certain aspects are in place: Seyfried and Sarsgaard give strong performances, as does a nearly unrecognizable Sharon Stone as Lovelace's mother. The set design and fashion are on-mark, and James Franco is almost credible as a young Hugh Hefner. And considering the subject matter, it's quite tastefully filmed, although pairing further restraint with an already amputated script drains even more blood from a story that deserves a more complete—and more thought-provoking—telling.