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People vs. Larry Flynt

movie reviewmovie reviewmovie reviewvideo review out of 4 Movie Review: People vs. Larry Flynt

Starring: Woody Harrelson, Courtney Love
Director: Milos Forman
Rated: R
RunTime: 120 Minutes
Release Date: December 1996
Genre: Drama

*Also starring: Crispin Glover, Brett Harrleson, Vincent Schiavelli, Miles Chapin, Norm MacDonald, Donna Hanover, Edward Norton, James Cromwell

Review by Brian Koller
3½ stars out of 4

At one point during the film "The People vs. Larry Flynt" a Supreme Court justice makes a statement similar to "The First Amendment is very important, but it isn't everything." But to Larry Flynt, freedom of speech _is_ everything, becoming more and more important after other aspects of his life have been taken away from him.

In the movie's first half, "The People vs. Larry Flynt" plays as a comedy. Larry Flynt (Woody Harrelson) rises from small-time adult nightclub operator to the publisher of the sleaziest porn magazine, along the way marrying free-spirited lesbian Althea (Courtney Love). Much female naked flesh is paraded, but this is acceptable given the context of the film.

This leads to legal problems for Flynt, who is prosecuted by cynical politicians. These politicians seem more interested in putting Flynt behind bars than in stopping his magazine, which continues to flourish. Flynt does not help his cause by antagonizing judges and prosecutors in court. He becomes less interested in running a magazine, and more interested in seeing what behaviour he can get away with under the protection of free speech.

Flynt is paralyzed from the waist down by an unknown assassin. This changes the nature of the film, which becomes much weirder, as does Flynt and Althea. Flynt's southern drawl becomes a mixture of W. C. Fields and James Stewart, while Althea's hair color is dyed multiple unnatural colors.

"The People vs. Larry Flynt" is an excellent film. I especially liked the variety of the script: the roles of a tough federal judge, Jerry Falwell, and Flynt's lawyer (Edward Norton) are played straight with credible lines, while Flynt and Althea can be as bizarre as, well, the First Amendment allows.

I am not an expert on the real Larry Flynt's life, and I don't know how accurately he is portrayed. I don't believe that it is relevant. This film should be treated as fiction, even if it has much basis in fact. I don't think it glorifies Flynt, transforming a porn peddler into a fighter for free speech. Actually, the Flynt character is presented as a jerk, and sometimes as a lunatic.

There are many standout performances here. Richard Paul makes a perfect Jerry Falwell, and Courtney Love is well-cast as Althea (can't see her playing girl-next-door roles though). Norton is fine as the intense, disapproving, fresh-scrubbed lawyer for Flynt. Donna Hanover is a convincing Ruth Carter Stapleton. Clinton pit-bull James Carville even succeeds. Harrelson is the only actor who gets a raspberry, camping it up and talking as if he had marbles in his mouth. He can be very funny delivering lines, though.

Copyright 1996 Brian Koller

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