Tag Archives: Peter Sarsgaard

Movie Review: Lovelace (2013)


There are a lot of ways the filmmakers could have gone about making Lovelace, a biopic about one of the most well-known porn stars in history who spent a grand total of 17 days in the industry. Directors Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman ended up going for a pretty straight-up story about a young, naive woman who was abused and manipulated to star in what turned out to be the most famous porno of all-time. While the film was interesting because of its subject matter and strong performances from Amanda Seyfried (the titular character) and Peter Sarsgaard (abusive husband Chuck Traynor), it’s hard for me to decide whether it was really any better than an above-average TV movie.

The film begins in 1970, when a 21-year-old Linda goes ice skating with her more precocious friend and gets picked up by the charismatic Traynor. The two quickly fall into a relationship despite Linda’s strict parents and get married, and that’s when things start to take a turn for the worse. The core of the straightforward narrative is about how Linda comes to star in Deep Throat and temporarily rises to stardom due to the film’s unexpected success, but never really gets to enjoy the fruits of that success due to the film’s producers and her husband’s controlling and abusive nature.

In many ways, Lovelace feels like a fairly standard battered wife film, though to the directors’ and Seyfriend’s credit you do kind of understand why things turned out the way they did. How does someone star in a porno against their will and appear to be relatively happy about it when they are in fact miserable and depressed? To be honest I still don’t know, but  Lovelace does a good job of helping viewers understand how she fell into her predicament through her naive disposition and orthodox upbringing in the that era.

I’m not sure how accurate the film is, but Lovelace is portrayed sympathetically as a tragic young woman who was led down the wrong path and had to learn her lessons the hard way before restoring some sort of normality to her life, though it is clear that the scars she endured from the Deep Throat experience will never fade completely. On the other hand, this type of handling of the narrative makes the story feel a little oversimplified. As harrowing as it was for Lovelace, was she really completely blameless for what happened to her and was her husband the root of all evil? The film certainly makes it feel that way.

Seyfried is excellent as Linda Lovelace, even though I thought she was a strange casting choice considering that she is far too pretty for the role even with the attempt to “ugly” her up. Sarsgaard has always been an underrated actor in my opinion, and it was good to see him relish the opportunity to play a sleazy bad guy, albeit a very one-dimensional one. I was also shocked to see Sharon Stone, who knows a thing or two about spreading her legs herself, play Seyfried’s mother. There’s no kind way to say this, but Ms Basic Instinct is really starting to show her age. But she still put up a solid performance that had more layers than her screen time afforded. Playing her husband and Seyfried’s dad is T-1000, Robert Patrick, who has run up a few miles on his odometer as well and doesn’t stand out much here. Rounding out the all-star cast are James Franco as Hugh Hefner, and Hank Azaria and Chris Noth as Deep Throat execs.

On the whole, I’d say Lovelace is a well-made,  well-acted and tastefully-crafted film (considering the subject matter) that avoids feeling exploitative or sensationalised, but there isn’t anything about it in particular that elevates it above your average biopic. I just feel there was more emotional complexity to be explored but the conventional approach ended up hamstringing the production and prevented it from being something edgier and more memorable.

3 stars out of 5

PS: I have not seen Deep Throat but am interested in checking out the acclaimed 2005 documentary on the film called Inside Deep Throat.

Movie Review: Green Lantern (2D) (2011)

Green Lantern, the latest comic book adaptation (from DC), is the type of film that would have been better received a few years ago — before the genre got ‘realistic’ and before the bar was exponentially raised by films such as Iron Man and The Dark Knight.

Does that make Green Lantern a horrible film?  No.  But when lined up against the other quality superhero films of recent times — actually, even just 2011 (Thor, X-Men: First Class and Captain America: The First Avenger) — Green Lantern suddenly looks like a weak link.

I had almost no idea who or what Green Lantern was before this film came along — for years I got it confused with The Green Hornet (I thought the hornet lived in the lantern).

Well, in short, it’s about this intergalactic league of superhero protectors called ‘Lanterns’ that rely on the green power of ‘will’ (encased in a ring, powered by an actual lantern!) to fight enemies that utilise the yellow power of ‘fear’.  Stuff happens, a new Lantern is needed, and the ring chooses a human, a reckless fighter jet pilot by the name of Hal Jordan (Ryan Reynolds).  Of course, fear has also chosen someone, and it’s up to Jordan to overcome his own fear and save the world.

That sounds like a silly and derivative premise (it has shades of Star Wars, Lord of the Rings and Superman), and it is, but so are the premises of most comic superhero films.  It’s up to the makers of the film to make us believe in it, even if it’s just within the confines of the story’s own universe.

And that’s where Green Lantern struck out for me — apart from a fairly strong introduction, I didn’t believe in the story for the majority of the film’s 114-minute running time, and as a result, couldn’t connect emotionally with the narrative or the characters.   There were just too many gaps, inconsistencies and avoided issues to prevent the film from being a more engaging experience.  The writers and the director (Martin Campbell, who helmed Casino Royale and Edge of Darkness) didn’t make the necessary adjustments in bringing a comic book to life, and instead, the film played out like a children’s cartoon with (predominantly) human actors.  Perhaps for once they stayed too true to the original source.

Speaking of actors, Ryan Reynolds did everything he possibly could to fill the shoes of Hal Jordan but was still a disappointment.  On paper, Reynolds, with his pearly whites, ripped bod, boyish charm and wry sense of humour, was probably the one of the best choices for this superhero, but the poor screenplay never allowed him to fully break out.  The result was a relatively flat, forgettable performance and a character that should have been a lot more likeable.

Blake Lively plays Jordan’s childhood friend and fellow pilot Carol Ferris, and does a surprisingly good job, and dare I say looks better as a brunette than a blonde.  There is genuine chemistry between her and Reynolds, but again, something was holding them back.

The remainder of the all-star cast were all solid — Mark Strong, Tim Robbins, Angela Bassett, Temuera Morrison and Taika Waititi (from Boy), plus the voices of Geoffrey Rush, Michael Clarke Duncan and Clancy Brown (everyone’s favourite warden from Shawshank) — with the standout being Peter Saarsgard’s wonderful villain, who was more interesting to me than the hero and deserved more.

Having come across as rather negative, Green Lantern certainly wasn’t bad.  There were some exciting scenes, a few cracking action sequences and moments of ingenuity, and none of the film could be described as slow.  The digital effects were also very good, but nothing outstanding by today’s standards.  If we hadn’t been spoiled by so many good superhero movies in recent years, Green Lantern probably would have received a lot more love from critics and viewers alike.  Nonetheless, I hear Warner Bros are pushing forward with a sequel, with a potential for a trilogy.

2.75 stars out of 5

Movie Review: Orphan (2009)


In some ways, Orphan is your typical ‘child from hell’ movie.  However, it is also a superior horror/thriller that can keep you at the edge of your seat for a couple of hours.

I wasn’t sure what to expect when I went to see the film – it had a fantastic poster (see above) and a stellar cast, but it’s also directed by Jaume Collet-Serra, who was at the helm of such classics (not) such as House of Wax (2005) and Goal! 2: Living the Dream (2007).  Well, I came out of it pleasantly surprised and rather impressed.

The plot, of course, is pretty self-explanatory, so I won’t go into it too much.  The adopted child Esther is a seemingly charming 9 year-old girl who dresses weird, has a secretive past and gives one hell of a dirty stare.  Yes, it has a cliched storyline with cliched characters, but don’t let that put you off.  It’s all in the execution. 

Collet-Serra has injected much style and tension into the film, with a strong beginning and a ripper of an ending (which, even though I unfortunately guessed in advance, was still good).  He mixes it up with the voyeur cam and the POV (point-of-view) cam, and in addition to the ‘boo!’ scares, throws in the occasional ‘feint’ scare (where he sets up a ‘boo!’ shock that never comes).  Combined with the cool colour scheme, the icy surroundings and the smooth wooden house, the atmosphere is superb for a horror film.  

Collet-Serra also doesn’t shy away from the violence and the visceral shocks, which was a little unexpected as the incidents all involve young children.  And for those who think the movie will be entirely predictable, think again because not everything will go according to the way such films usually pan out.  It’s these little breaks away from the cliches that kept things interesting for me.  Oh, and there’s a dash of dark comedy as well.  Intentional or not, it was amusing.

The highest praise is reserved for the cast.  Vera Farmiga and Peter Sarsgaard are both outstanding as the parents (which you would expect from actors of their calibre), but of course it’s the title character, played by Isabelle Fuhrman, that really lifts the film to another level.  Fuhrman is really a wonderful little actress that manages to captivate the audience whenever she’s on screen.  She demands your attention.  She can be sweet, funny, scary and downright terrifying.  She makes you believe.  I can’t wait to see what she’s in next.

No doubt there are a lot of critics out there that would call Orphan trash – but really, what do people expect when they watch such a film?  It may be a little overlong (122 minutes) and totally unbelievable, but Orphan succeeds at what it set out to do – scare and shock the audience.  Can’t ask for much more than that.

4 stars out of 5!

[PS: they really shouldn’t say things like ‘You’ll never guess her secret’ in the trailers and posters because whenever they do I always end up guessing it!  Keep silent and surprise the audience!]