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