In 1972, decades before the internet-spawned porn explosion, a hardcore film about a woman who discovers her clitoris is located in the back of her throat became a pop-culture sensation. Besides unleashing sex films into the mainstream, Deep Throat was the first scripted porn feature, with characters, a storyline, bad jokes and decent production values. At its heart was Linda Lovelace, a sweet girl-next-door from a strict religious background with an impressive capacity for fellatio.
Shot for $25,000 in a Miami hotel room, the film turned Lovelace (born Linda Boreman) into an international superstar and thrust an estimated $600m into the coffers of its Mafia backers. At first, she was happy to fly the flag as the sexual revolution’s charming new poster girl, but with the 1980 publication of her third book, Ordeal, she revealed a more sinister tale, accusing manager/ husband Chuck Traynor of raping her, pimping her out and forcing her to do Deep Throat at gunpoint.
Lovelace’s shock-and-awe story arrives on the big screen courtesy of directing duo Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Freidman, whose background in gaythemed documentaries (including The Celluloid Closet and Common Threads: Stories From The Quilt) has honed their skills for compassionate storytelling. But it’s been a rocky journey, not least thanks to a competing Linda Lovelace biopic called Inferno. None other than Lindsay Lohan had attached herself to that project at one stage, but Epstein and Friedman found their own trump card in Amanda Seyfried, the Mamma Mia star whose poignant, uninhibited turn as the insecure porn icon turns out to be revelatory.
The film is likewise fearless and ambitious, boldly presenting both sides of Linda’s contradictory recollections. To start, we see the ‘happy’ façade of her journey to infamous sex starlet, before doubling back on itself to reveal the unsavoury reality (Peter Sarsgaard is superb as the charismatic but sleazy Traynor). To this day, Deep Throat stands as the most famous and significant skinflick ever made. Supporters view it as a cheeky celebration of pre- AIDS sexual freedom that showed women could be as lustily ravenous as men (even if it did come at the service of the male sexual ego). Detractors latched onto it as a feminist cause celebre, decrying Linda’s cruel exploitation.
Linda joined the latter camp, renouncing her past to become an avid anti-pornography crusader before sadly dying in a car crash in 2002. The film doesn’t make it that far in her life, with Lovelace ultimately serving as a tale of survival for the woman who changed the way hardcore porn was viewed forever.