By Harlan Jacobson
Now did we say sex? Sex was certainly a vehicle for politics
in seven or eight films on my scorecard but didn't much seem to figure in the awards.
Outright sex for sex's sake were the straight sex pics.
Like Don Jon's Addiction (see previous Sundance item),
which divided audiences here but which can attract a commercial audience of
20-somethings and sneaky teens with its cheeky wit and its project to civilize
the young American male.
Michael Winterbottom's The Look of Love,
starring Steve Coogan as Paul Raymond, Britain's
more successful Larry Flynt, indeed the richest man in England by the
end of his life in 2008, is another on the straight side but with less to say.
Coogan's shtick - putting his Oxbridge grammar to work in the mouth of a
working class hero - isn't quite enough to carry us along on Raymond's
character arc to great wealth and a lonely life in a standard immorality play
based on the business man model articulated at least as far back as "Nowhere
Man" on the Beatles' 1965 Revolver
album. Winterbottom came out beforehand, credited the film's existence to the
absent Coogan, and announced the film's point-"He lost everyone he cared for."
Never a good idea. I didn't care for the film's lack of ambition or its bobbing
back and forth edit, after having earlier made one or another point that was
obvious to begin with.
More popular was Lovelace, directed by documentary vets Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman, seven-time
Sundance directors (starting with The
Times of Harvey Milk, 1985). The world premiere at the Eccles was a
madhouse - it's amazing how the possibility of onscreen oral sex, which is
delivered only in cutaway reaction shots, has the power to bring out the
Epstein and Friedman thanked their producers for chancing
that gay directors could do justice to a biopic about a straight porn star.
Makes sense to me. Taken from Lovelace's tell all Ordeal memoir, the film
somewhat prances through Little Red Riding Hood territory: there's Amanda
Seyfried as freckle-faced, 21-year-old Linda Boreman, frugging away at a
Florida roller-rink when she's spotted and seduced by the wolf.
has de rigueur mutton chops, a control freak's physically and psychologically
abusive disposition, and about a dozen years on her. Traynor springs her from
parental jail and takes her to meet the mob to make some money. The Mob is just
shifting into second gear in the mass market porno biz when Traynor and Linda
enter, and the rest plays out according to the trope of talent who make a lot
of money for rogue capitalists before ending up broke back in the boxy houses
they came from and glad to be there.
Initially, Gerard Damiano, played dead-on by Hank Azaria,
the director of what would become Deep
Throat, dismisses Traynor's Lovelace as a vaguely sexy Raggedy Ann whose
librarian chest and eyeglasses stray too far from the inflatable human doll
template. Once the Mob gets her, though, Traynor is fast consigned to the
doghouse for the rest of the film. In a fun sight-gag scene Peter Sarsgaard as
Traynor knocks himself out giggling, certain that as soon as Damiano and
Butchie Peraino, the mob's line producer, look over their shoulders and see
what we see, a home movie reel of Linda swallowing Traynor's cock like it‘s a
gherkin, they're going to lose it big time. "Wow, dat's Art!" (pronounced Ott,
of course), the bug-eyed Damiano squeals. And then in one of the better
bada-bump, Vaudeville throwaways, he asks Traynor, "Can she do dat wid a big
She can. And given Deep
Throat's conceit - due to an anatomical accident, the unlikely
freckle-faced heroine's clitoris is located at the bottom of her throat - a
star is born. Adam Brody plays Deep
Throat's lead, Harry Reems (second only to the late Johnny Wadd Holmes as a
superstar), whose mind Linda blows on the first take, which is a give like he's
never gotten. The real Reems, now 65, lives quietly in Park City,
a self-described spiritualist. I wondered whether Reems was there, slipped into
the house at the back as a Sundance volunteer in an orange Kenneth Cole vest,
taking it all in. It would have been a perfect disquise.
At any rate, the made-guys see Linda as a gold mine, Traynor
sees her as a runaway slave, and Linda ends up on the front lines of the
anti-porn movement before she dies at 53 in 2002 in a car crash. Or so the End
Screen Crawl tells us.
As Butchie Peraino Bobby Cannavale is always a guilty
pleasure to watch - he's got a bead on New
Jersey second to none - here. Sarsgaard flicks back
and forth between sleazy, decent, and raging as the pimp who quickly loses
control of a woman he'll love to the day she dies - and then dies three months
later of a heart attack. James Franco purrs around as a Hef parody as soon as
Linda gets her 15 minutes. Sharon Stone is miraculously incognito as Linda's
gekko-faced mother, perfectly essaying Mommie Dearest busted down to the
suburban ranch house level.
Lovelace spent something like 17 days in the industry, she
tells Phil Donahue in a clever cinema blend, giving her a lifelong identity to
resist and redefine. The mob made $600 million, Linda made $1250. More thanks
to the End Screen Crawl. Again, Weinstein picked it up, since it plays like