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Chloë Sevigny (#110 of 27)

Sundance Film Festival 2013: Lovelace and The East

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Sundance Film Festival 2013: <em>Lovelace</em> and <em>The East</em>
Sundance Film Festival 2013: <em>Lovelace</em> and <em>The East</em>

With Lovelace, directors Jeffrey Friedman and Rob Epstein have attempted to bring the definitive story of porn icon Linda Lovelace to the big screen, starring Amanda Seyfried in the title role. With a script penned by Andy Bellin, the film has approached the complexities of Lovelace’s early career and later anti-porn stance by generally glossing over them, relying on camp humor and an overly stylized aesthetic. The result: a flashy biopic filled with celebrity cameo after celebrity cameo, but very little substance.

The movie doles out Lovelace’s story quickly, jumping frantically from her days as a naïve and sexually conservative teen to her awkward courtship with future husband, manager, and abuser Chuck Traynor (Peter Sarsgaard), to her lessons in the art of oral sex (unseen on screen, of course) and her fleeting post-Deep Throat stardom and later denunciation of her former life. While the supporting cast, featuring James Franco, Sharon Stone, Chris Noth, and Chloë Sevigny (the list literally goes on and on), is amusing simply for the novelty of seeing them dressed in kitschy ’70s getups playing the likes of Hugh Hefner and Harry Reems, the revolving door of familiar faces is just one example of the film’s lack of focus. The tone that Freedman and Epstein want to hit is never clear, with the sexual elements of the film handled with humor, and the adult-film industry of the ’70s presented as cheap parody complete with artificial-looking pornstaches and over-the-top, skeevy directors. The light tone would be fine if it were consistent. When claims of abuse and exploitation arise later on, the film takes on an only slightly darker tenor that doesn’t make an impact due to its whimsical attitude toward Lovelace’s exploits earlier on.

Big Love Recap Season 4, Episode 1, “Free At Last”

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Big Love Recap: Season 4, Episode 1, “Free At Last”

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Big Love Recap: Season 4, Episode 1, “Free At Last”

After watching the beginning of season four of Big Love, I think we can safely give up on ever having a premiere of this show that isn’t a busy and exhausting whirlwind. The show will always set an overwhelming number of balls rolling at the beginning of each season, leaving us only to hope that the threads will be weaved together in a fulfilling manner throughout the season. That said, the season four premiere is somewhat deceptively messy—though it packs in a lot, it also seems to indicate the paths it intends to follow throughout the season.

Bill Henrickson’s (Bill Paxton) business endeavors and his roles as a husband, a religious leader to his family, and now a church that extends only slightly outside his family, have always been inextricably linked. As someone who was never really exposed to religion personally, it was one of the first things that intrigued me about the show even back in season one, when, during the first Henrickson family dinner, Bill said grace and prayed for a successful store opening, establishing a relationship with God that is often best described as self-serving.

Big Love Recap: Season 3, Episode 10, “Sacrament”

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Big Love Recap: Season 3, Episode 10, “Sacrament”

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Big Love Recap: Season 3, Episode 10, “Sacrament”

The season finales of Big Love often have a bit of an out-of-control feel to them, as though any given season’s plotlines have gotten so all-encompassing that it’s all the show can do to race just ahead of the giant boulder of story that threatens to overtake it at any moment. “Sacrament,” written by Victoria Morrow from a story by Coleman Herbert and directed by Dan Attias, managed this feat more elegantly than last season’s finale, and it mostly brought the series’s sporadically brilliant third season to a close, even if the finale was, itself, only sporadically brilliant. I suspect everyone here is tired of hearing me diagnose the show’s problem as spending too much time at Juniper Creek (even if I’m more charitable toward those characters and storylines than some commentators), but the four episodes following “Come, Ye Saints,” the best episode the show has ever done, just got too bogged down in compound morass. Still, developments in the finale suggest that the focus of the show will shift decisively to the Henrickson compound in Sandy, Utah, and to stories of Bill Henrickson’s (Bill Paxton) third wife, Margene (Ginnifer Goodwin) in the show’s fourth season.

Big Love Recap Season 3, Episode 9, “Outer Darkness”

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Big Love Recap: Season 3, Episode 9, “Outer Darkness”

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Big Love Recap: Season 3, Episode 9, “Outer Darkness”

“What is it in us, Alby, that makes us the way we are?” Nicki (Chloë Sevigny) asks early in “Outer Darkness,” Big Love Season Three’s penultimate episode, written by Eileen Myers and directed Michael Lehmann (a terrifically talented TV director still mostly known for the 80s teen comedy Heathers). The whole episode hinges on that question and returns to one of Big Love’s favorite themes—the uneasy mix between the purity of religious creed and the imperfection of human beings. The things Nicki and Barb (Jeanne Tripplehorn) and Bill (Bill Paxton) have done are all eminently HUMAN things to have done, but by giving in to their own desires and their human emotions (in Barb’s case), they find themselves cast out of family and faith. The entirety of human constructs like religion and society are based around the idea that we can use a greater good to overcome our messy biologies, but those biologies inevitably let us down. When the boyfriend you most likely rightfully kicked to the curb comes back into your life and says he’s so sorry you lost the baby, are you going to stand firm to what you know is probably the right thing to do or welcome him back with open arms? No matter how devoted you are to your creed (be it religious or otherwise), you’re always going to let it down. You’re a human being. It’s what we do.

Big Love Recap Season 3, Episode 8, “Rough Edges”

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Big Love Recap: Season 3, Episode 8, “Rough Edges”

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Big Love Recap: Season 3, Episode 8, “Rough Edges”

“Rough Edges,” written by Mark V. Olsen and Will Scheffer and directed by Dan Attias, just plunges forward, pell-mell, not terribly concerned with if it makes a lot of sense (that Woodruff letter storyline still feels dropped in from another series entirely, Mormon content notwithstanding) but having a good time going ahead anyway. If nothing else, the episode cemented Nicki (Chloë Sevigny) as this season’s most compelling character; the long web of lies she’s been spinning all season crumbled around her in the wake of the infatuated Ray the DA pursuing her so far as her home. The episode also dove into the headlong descent toward the season finale (in two weeks), which was no easy trick, since this season has already had, like, 50 season finales. So this time, Big Love really, really means it.

Big Love Recap Season 3, Episode 7, "Fight or Flight"

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Big Love Recap: Season 3, Episode 7, “Fight or Flight”

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Big Love Recap: Season 3, Episode 7, “Fight or Flight”

As if making penance for the last two weeks of limited Juniper Creek storylines, Sunday night’s Big Love, “Fight or Flight,” written by Patricia Breen and directed by Adam Davidson, was probably the most Juniper Creek-heavy episode of the season, if not since season one. Some of this was interesting. Some of it wasn’t. But pretty much all of it trafficked in the strange weirdness of the setting, and that kept some of the tragic things that happened at Juniper Creek from fully passing over from bizarre to truly affecting.

Big Love Recap Season 3, Episode 6, “Come, Ye Saints”

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Big Love Recap: Season 3, Episode 6, “Come, Ye Saints”

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Big Love Recap: Season 3, Episode 6, “Come, Ye Saints”

So let’s talk about God.

I mean, He’s arguably the most important character in Big Love, even if we never directly see Him, even if we never are sure how He feels about the Henricksons. Bill Henrickson (Bill Paxton) is always so concerned about how the two of them are getting along that we are forced to take these sorts of things into account, even if we don’t particularly believe in God in any way, shape or form. Bill’s deteriorating relationship with his faith has provided a hidden spine to Big Love’s third season, and it finally erupts in tonight’s episode, in one of the all-time great television images to my mind.