REVIEW: LOVELACE (2013)

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LOVELACE (2013)

Lovelace is a well made if not somewhat flawed biography of Linda Lovelace (Amanda Seyfried), the first bonafide porn superstar who appeared in the equally legendary adult film Deep Throat. While I’m not quite sure that the narrative structure completely works, the film is elevated by some really good performances all around from it’s good cast. The film’s story is basically told twice. First we have a fun look at girl-next-door Linda Boreman who comes from a home with an overbearing mother (an almost unrecognizable Sharon Stone) and upon meeting her future husband Chuck Traynor (Peter Sarsgaard), embarks on a journey into making the adult film classic Deep Throat…a film that basically ignited the porn industry’s growth into the billion dollar industry it is today…and becoming an overnight sensation herself. The first half of the film portrays it from the outside appearance of this wide eyed girl becoming a star practically overnight by making one of the most infamous porn films ever made. She even gets to meet Hugh Hefner (James Franco) who tells her she has what it takes to be a true star away from porn. But then we jump six years later to Linda getting ready to publish her memoir “Ordeal” and then we jump back to the beginning to see the true story of what happened including the horribly manipulative and physically abusive treatment by husband Traynor, who forced her into prostitution and then the production of the legendary porn flick all to fund his own life of excess. We then see how she was physically abused and forced into sex acts with other men for money in some very effective and horrifying sequences. We get to see the effect on her and how it ruined the relationship between her and her parents for many years until she finally got the courage to leave Traynor and the adult industry and start on a path to a new life that included releasing her memoir and becoming a feminist as well as a wife and mother.

And this is where I feel Lovelace had it’s biggest problem, I just don’t think telling the same story twice from two different perspectives really worked to the benefit of the story. At a little over 90 minutes that basically gives us 45 minutes to cover the same events twice instead of telling the full story from start to finish and covering more ground. I appreciate the concept of telling the story from first the public’s point of view of what happened, to then showing us how it really was, but to me the mood shift is very jarring from the more entertaining perspective of her rise to infamy and then this harrowing and heartbreaking story of her abuse at the hands of her slimy husband. Both halves taken individually are done well and are effective, but don’t quite work as well as a whole. A more traditional narrative might have better suited the material.

But what makes this film really worth seeing are the good performances from the actors. Seyfried gives her best performance yet and is exceptional at presenting both the public and private sides of Linda Lovelace’s life during her fame and then her escape to living a somewhat normal life and crusading against porn and domestic abuse. Sarsgaard is equally good portraying the charming man on the outside and the insecure and abusive monster that lurked behind closed doors. A man who had no problem selling his wife to a room full of scumbags for a gang bang. As her parents, Stone is almost unrecognizable and also gives one of her best performances as Linda’s overbearing mother Dorothy and Robert Patrick gives an emotionally filled performances as her father John, who cares deeply about his daughter, but appears afraid to assert himself in front of his wife. The supporting cast are equally solid with Juno Temple as Linda’s friend Patsy, James Franco as Hugh Hefner, Hank Azaria as Deep Throat director Gerard Damiano and Chris Noth as Deep Throat investor Anthony Romano, who starts to see Chuck for who he really is.

Overall I liked Lovelace, especially for the performaces. Directors Rob Epstein and Jeffery Friedman do a good job recreating the era and giving the scenes the emotional depth they need, it’s just that the narrative structure robs us from appreciating the emotional contrast of seeing both sides of the story as it occurs instead of revealing it all in one big flashback. The script by Andy Bellin seems solid, but again, we have the narrative issues it’s structure causes. A good film, not a great one, but one that does still have an impact and is really made worth watching for an exceptionally good cast. Also stars Wes Bentley, Adam Brody, Bobby Cannavale and Debi Mazur as Dolly Sharp.

3 porn stars!

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HALLOWEEN FAVORITES: DEADLY BLESSING (1981)

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DEADLY BLESSING (1981)

While I wouldn’t say Wes Craven’s Deadly Blessing is one of my all time Halloween Favorites, I would say it’s a film that holds sentimental value being one of the films seen at my beloved Oritani Theater in Hackensack, N.J. and if you’ve been coming to this site for a while you know that was a special place for the movie geek in me and holds a lot of equally special memories. Having recently revisited this creepy thriller thanks to Scream Factory’s gorgeous blu-ray, I found that not only was it still very enjoyable, but has some really nice 80s nostalgia attached to it now, too!

Deadly Blessing tells the story of young couple Martha (Battlestar Galactica hottie Maren Jensen) and Jim (Douglas Barr) who live on a farm near the rustic and religious Hittites of whom Jim is family, but was exiled for marrying a woman not of their clan. Tragedy strikes, as a horrible accident…or was it…leaves Martha a widow and soon she is joined by loyal friends Lana (Sharon Stone) and Vicky (Susan Buckner) who come to console her. Someone or something is watching the young women and soon Jim isn’t the only body turning up on Martha’s land. The Hittites, lead by the strict Isaiah (Ernest Borgnine), say that it is the work of the Incubus, a seductive demon come to temp all to sin and damnation, while Martha and her friends believe it is the work of someone far more down to earth…but who and why?

While Craven…who co-wrote the screenplay with story writers Glenn M. Benest and Matthew Barr…would really hit his stride with A Nightmare On Elm Street three years later, he still delivers a solid little horror thriller here that is actually an entertaining and well made film. It has some spooky sequences and keeps you guessing while presenting us with some likable characters to fear for and some other characters to be suspicious of. Craven gives the film some nice atmosphere, accented by some beautiful cinematography by Robert Jessup and a nice score from James Horner.

The cast are fine. Jensen is a bit wooden, but not enough to sink things. Stone is good as the emotionally troubled Lana and Buckner makes a crush-worthy and perky Vicky…and a big crush on her Vicky I had upon seeing this flick in 1981. Borgnine is perfectly menacing and just over-the-top enough as clan leader Isaiah and genre favorite Michael Berryman is equally effective as a Hittite man with an eye for his pretty neighbor. Also good are Lisa Hartman as Faith and Lois Nettleton as her mother Louisa, who live near Martha and who appear nice enough, if not a little odd.

There is a body count, but not a large one, as this is more a mystery thriller then a slasher. The bloodshed is moderate, as is the violence and Craven has his usual fun with dream sequences…one involving Sharon Stone and a spider is still goose-bump inducing even today. There are also a few scenes and lines that almost seem to foreshadow Mr. Krueger’s appearance a few years later, now that we are familiar with that classic and it’s legendary boogeyman.

The film isn’t perfect. As said, Jensen is a bit wooden and there are some weak bits of dialogue throughout. And while it is enjoyable, the last act, including the film’s big reveal, does skirt very close to going over-the-top and becoming silly. The final scene is an unnecessary shock ending that does come across as more silly than scary. It almost appears like it’s tacked on from another movie.

Overall though, Deadly Blessing is a nostalgic and fun early 80s horror that may seem tame by today’s standards and even the standards of Craven’s later work, but it shows the director of the brutal and shocking Last House On The Left, the vicious The Hills Have Eyes and the comic book-ish Swamp Thing (which came after Blessing) was continuing to show his versatility and could handle something on a more subtle level that didn’t require the heavy violence or over the top theatrics of his previous films. A very entertaining and delightfully 80s horror from one of the genre’s greats.

As said, this cult classic is now available from Scream Factory including a beautifully restored print along with some nice extra’s including fun interviews with genre favorite Michael Berryman and sassy lead Susan Buckner who both have amusingly different versions of how well…or not…the three leading ladies got along. Fun stuff!

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 3 (out of 4) Borgnines!

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