Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Lovelace (2013)

The only two true things you will learn from Lovelace are this: In the 70s, people watched porn on dates, and polygraphs were considered scientific instruments

The makers of award-winning Milk return this year with Lovelace, the latest in Hollywood’s 2010s infatuation with the partial biopic. While traditional biopics tend to cover youth to greatness and beyond (The Iron Lady, for example), the recent innovation of the partial biopic covers a tiny period of the life of its subject. Consequently, the traditional biopic tends to make a big statement while the limited biopic will have you believe it found the core of the subject in that tiny, often obscure portion of their more illustrious career (My Week with Marilyn).

In 1972, Lovelace starred in a silly but engaging pornographic film, Deep Throat, and catapulted into a lifetime of fame that was too much to bear. Lovelace traces the late girlhood of Linda Boreman under the stifling conservatism of her parents, her wooing by Chuck Traynor, and her initiation into pornography and fame. The film does this twice: the first time as a breezy comedy where Lovelace the natural becomes the poster girl of the American sexual liberation, and the second time as a traditional hero’s journey where Lovelace the abused wife and reluctant actor overcomes her torture to become the poster girl of feminist empowerment. First, you laugh with her. Then you cry with her.

Epstein and Friedman are competent storytellers and the film holds together as it should, and delivers what it’s expected to. Yet Lovelace, the limited biopic packaged for compelling entertainment and catharsis, tells a slightly less interesting story than what actually happened in the real world. As it turned out, there was no happy ending, no redemption for Linda.

Where the film leaves off, real life has her soon conscripted into Andrea Dworkin’s anti-pornography feminist movement and accusing her second husband of spousal abuse, and then disowning the feminist movement a few years later and accusing Dworkin and Steinem of withholding proceeds that were rightfully hers. Popular memory has her as a serial fabulist, an unreliable narrator of her own life stories, updated and refurbished every decade—and we understand why the directors may have run away from that angle.

What kind of biopic could one make from a truer-to-life Linda? Perhaps one might even find a tragicomic hero-victim whose virtue consisted of reinventing herself as an authentic woman of the moment, every different moment that America needed a different woman of the moment. And that would be a wondrous thing indeed.

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