"Don't forget to breathe," Chuck Traynor (Peter Sarsgaard) tells Linda Boreman (Amanda Seyfried) as he introduces her to the sex act that will bring her infamy as Linda Lovelace, star of 1972's Deep Throat. These are about the kindest words he says to the hapless Linda in Lovelace, Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman's generous-to-a-fault biopic about the woman who went from being the toast of the industry in the 1970s to an antipornography activist in the 1980s.
Though Sarsgaard's Traynor is clearly a skunk, Lovelace starts out zippy and fun. It makes the porn industry seem like kind of a gas, inhabited by characters like Deep Throat director Jerry Damiano (Hank Azaria), a lovable creep who initially dismisses the naive Linda--"She's like a sexy Raggedy Ann"--but is won over by Traynor's home movie of his wife on her knees. This gauzily alluring tale of a weak and venal man who peddles his wife's flesh is less evocative of Boogie Nights than it is of Bob Fosse's Star 80. (Eric Roberts even has a cameo.)
It's de rigueur for any Hollywood depiction of the other cinema, the seamy one, to condemn it, and eventually Lovelace revisits earlier scenes to undo the fun. But it's far lighter than Lovelace's 1980 memoir, Ordeal. While Seyfried is convincingly vulnerable, there's something disingenuous about the film, particularly its upbeat ending. This story of the hardcore is soft at its core.