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The People vs. Larry Flynt


The bold and meticulous directorial eye of Milos Foreman, an uncompromising fact-based screenplay and a dazzling Oscar-nominated performance from Woody Harrelson are the primary selling points for The People Vs Larry Flynt, a brash, unapologetic, and ambitious biographically-styled look at one of pop culture's most controversial figures.

Larry Flynt and his brother Jimmy were eeking out a living as the owner of a string of strip clubs when Larry decided to branch out and take the concept of Playboy magazine a step further...get rid of all the articles and interviews that no one cares about and provide a magazine, clearly for a select clientele, that provided exactly what they were looking for...pornography, in its purest form, without all the other pointless frills provided by publications like Playboy. Larry's instincts that a clientele for such publication existed were on the money and made him piles of it; unfortunately, it made him a lot of enemies too, documented in an actual assassination attempt which left him paralyzed, but not dead. Larry not only found himself at the forefront of the defense of pornography as art but for determining where the line between art and pornography was drawn, as well as a proponent for the First Amendment, which actually found him at one point in the Supreme Court.

Flynt's story was played out in front of us during the hedonistic 1970's so it would have been pretty hard for screenwriters Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski to embellish or fictionalize without friction from the Flynt empire, so I don't doubt the validity of the story presented here, even though I'm sure there are elements of the story that were embellished for the sake of entertainment, but the screenplay does provide a lot of balance in terms of being realistic in its presentation of Flynt as a "smut peddler' and what he would come to represent for so many. I found the portion of the story where Larry's wife, Althea (Courtney Love) makes a horrific descent into heroine addiction a bit much and detracted from the primary story being told, but there was nothing out of the realm of realism here.

Director Milos Foreman proves to be a master of painting bold cinematic pictures that haunt the viewer...the shots of Larry giving his speech about whether porn or war is more offensive against the giant slide show or the final shots of Larry's decaying mansion near the end of the film remebering Althea, lovingly detailed with a hand-held camera, are images that are hard to erase from the memory. Not to mention his no-holds-barred recreations of Flynt's outrageous courtroom antics, which walk the fine line between funny and cringe-worthy.

And just as he did with One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, Foreman gets some incredible performances from his cast. Harrelson is nothing short of brilliant and I sometimes wonder if he shouldn't have won that Oscar. Love's inyour face performance is completely unhinged but fascinating. Edward Norton' s razor sharp work as Alan Isaacman, Flynt's attorney might be easy to overlook. Bouquets to Donna Hanover as Ruth Carter Stapleton, Richard Paul as Jerry Falwell, and Harrelson's real-life brother Brett as his brother Jimmy. And yes, that is the real Flynt playing the judge in Flynt's first trial. This film is an unapologetic look at a media emperor who made no apologies about what he believed in and though people throughout his life tried, never became anything that what he was and stayed true to that.