Anthony's Film Review
The People vs. Larry Flynt (1996)
Put aside his smutty magazine, and you have a man's powerful crusade for free speech...
If you're thinking about watching The People vs. Larry Flynt because you like movies with sex and nudity, you're going to be disappointed. Well, not too much, but enough when you find out that it's barely there. I know Larry Flynt founded Hustler, a popular adult magazine with contents that rival that of Playboy and Penthouse. I know what's in it and I know that he was controversial. So why would you be disappointed?
Because this movie is more of a powerful drama that explores the First Amendment of the United States Constitution than a wild romp full of naked women. Larry Flynt was preoccupied with two things: boosting sales of Hustler and defending it against numerous critics. His main defense was freedom of speech. The United States of America was founded on certain freedoms and Flynt felt the right to exercise them. In a memorable scene, Flynt does a slideshow presentation featuring pictures of both corpses in a battlefield and nude people in sex acts, then asks if people would rather make love than war.
Woody Harrelson is an amazing choice to play Larry Flynt. The two in real life don't have too much physical resemblance, except maybe a few facial features, but Harrelson definitely captures Flynt's mannerisms with accuracy. Courtney Love is Althea, who eventually ends up as Flynt's wife. The two together really shine on the screen. And let's throw in one more great actor to complete the mix. Edward Norton is Alan Isaacman, the attorney who would become Flynt's most valuable ally in his fight to defend our rights.
Going back to the story, Flynt gets into a whole mess of trouble, including a time when a judge ordered an unfair sentence for obscenity. With so many enemies, Flynt's life is changed forever when a sniper attempts to take his life, but only leaves him paralyzed from the waist down. Althea is shocked and soon turns to drugs. This is when Flynt starts to appear more eccentric and unpredictable. In another courtroom appearance, he wears a T-shirt that says "F--- This Court" and wears an American flag as a diaper. He even experiments with the idea of Hustler issues involving sex and Christianity.
By the end of the movie, you will likely sympathize with Larry Flynt. Any story putting a main character up against so many odds is inspiring, no matter who that person is. I like the message of the film: in order to have your own freedom to speech, you have to accept other people's speech that you may not like, because their right is the same as yours. A man's sex magazine is no different from someone else's criticism of authority or another man's ideas for improving society. You can only have all of it or none of it. Trying to have some of it is never fair.
But enough of the rant. The People vs. Larry Flynt is an amazing drama with Oscar-caliber performances and direction, a moving film from beginning to end.
For more information about The People vs. Larry Flynt, visit the Internet Movie Database.