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It’s hard to believe that anyone with any interest in the once-notorious 1970s porn star Linda Lovelace will learn much from this new retelling of her sad career. It’s equally hard to imagine that anyone who doesn’t already know this material will much care. We’ve seen the same tale over and over again—this was only the first version of it.

Of course, the name “Linda Lovelace” retains some currency: Even if you’re too young to remember the publicity surrounding her movie Deep Throat in the early 1970s, you probably recognize it as the punchline to a hundred dirty jokes. I know there are still t-shirts out there boasting “I choked Linda Lovelace,” or at least there were in the early 2000s when I saw her signing them at a movie fan convention in New Jersey.

Given the undeniable facts of her life, primarily that she was abused by her husband and manager Chuck Traynor, and that she received essentially nothing from her participation in a movie that made, according to some estimates, hundreds of millions of dollars, no one could ever deny her the right to profit from her own notoriety. Still, the details of her story have always been somewhat questionable, and there has been much suspicion over the years that she modified them to suit the circumstance.

That may explain why this film, co-directed by Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman (makers of such outstanding documentaries as Paragraph 175, The Celluloid Closet and Common Threads: Stories from the Quilt) treats its subject so gingerly. The first half is surprisingly lighthearted in depicting Linda Boreman’s meeting with Traynor and their entrée in the porn world. It isn’t until the second half that the ugliness comes out, bookended by scenes of Boreman in the late 1970s taking a lie detector test in conjunction with the publication of her tell-all book, Ordeal. It’s structurally surprising, as if the filmmakers want to be able to point out that these are her accusations only. It’s even more surprising given that the story isn’t nearly as grim as it might be: However much of the tale is true, there’s an awful lot more than you’ll see here in what differs from a Lifetime TV movie only in the strength of its cast, which includes Amanda Seyfried (too pretty for the title role; it would have been so much more effective to cast an actress as plain as the real Linda); Peter Sarsgaard, Juno Temple, Sharon Stone, Chris Noth, Adam Brody, and the omnipresent James Franco.

Watch the trailer for Lovelace

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