For that audience, there are a number of shots of naked breasts and a good deal of implied fiddling, but the cast and their directors do well to keep the story at least as compelling as the images it links. Said story is a slow builder. For much of the piece, it feels like a well-made but less than thrilling story of some fancy-free seventies cats who made the most of the free-love era and had a good time doing so.
But there’s darkness behind the superficial glamour. Lovelace becomes involved with and then marries Chuck Traynor (Peter Sarsgaard), a low-level operator who talks a much better game than he’s able to deliver. As Lovelace’s fame grows, so does his desire to control her – as an asset, more than a lover – and the result is an abusive relationship on a par with Ike and Tina Turner’s.
Andy Bellin’s script switches cleverly between the glossy stuff (the fluffing, if you will) and the affecting drama that comes later. A key cog in this process is Sharon Stone, almost unrecognisable as Linda’s mother Dorothy Boreman. She has realistic concerns for her daughter’s wellbeing, along with uncompromising views on the sanctity of marriage, which mark her as a source of conflict throughout.
She could be written off as an overly preachy voice of reason, but the imperfect, warped wisdom in what she says is ultimately responsible for much of the pathos generated during the second half of the film.
Is Lovelace sexy? Frequently. But the abiding feeling once it finishes is one of sadness.