The People vs. Larry Flynt Reviewby Michael Redman (mredman AT bvoice DOT com)
January 23rd, 1997
THE PEOPLE VS. LARRY FLYNT
A film review by Michael Redman
Copyright 1997 Michael Redman
***1/2 (out of ****)
Virtually everything connected with "Hustler" publisher Larry Flynt is tinged with controversy, even the poster for this movie. Elsewhere in the world the film is advertised with an image of Flynt (Woody Harrelson) draped in an American flag being crucified on the body of a nearly nude woman. In the United States, because the Motion Picture Association Of America wouldn't approve the artwork, the poster is of Harrelson's head with a flag over his mouth.
The film itself has also stirred up emotional feelings. While there is general agreement among critics that it is an exceptionally well crafted piece, not everyone believes that the screen Flynt is much like the real Larry Flynt. Produced by Oliver Stone ("JFK", "Nixon") who is known to present his own particular version of history, directed by Milos Forman ("One Flew Over The Cuckoo=92s Nest", "Amadeus") who specializes in iconoclast as hero films and written by Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski ("Ed Wood") who delight in the low-brow; Flynt's life story is from a very personalized point of view.
Growing up in the hill country of Kentucky, he graduates from a child moonshiner to running a seedy strip club in Cincinnati. Looking for a way to promote his establishment, he hits upon the idea of a glossy newsletter featuring photos of his dancers. Reluctantly agreeing to adding words as a result of a conversation with his printer who tells him "This is it? You=92ve got to have text, like 'Playboy' " to make it legal, Flynt begins his publishing empire. Said empire is going nowhere until he lucks into nude shots of Jackie O for the second issue. Then everyone in the country wants to see what he describes as "The First P****! [expletive for female genitalia deleted]"
The film is a combination of court room drama and an offbeat love story. Rags-to-riches Flynt=92s battles with fundamentalist preacher Jerry Farwell make it to the Supreme Court with a case concerning a satire ad in "Hustler" featuring Farwell=92s supposed confession of his first sexua= l
experience which was with his mother in an outhouse. Last seen as the naive hillbilly kid (or is he really a criminal genius?) in "Primal Fear", Edward Norton is excellent as Flynt's attorney although he looks remarkably young for the role. =
Flynt's temporary conversion to born-again Christianity by President Carter=92s sister is included in the film, but not very well explained. I= t
is amusing, however, to watch him try to combine his newly found religion with the porn mag. Naked women on transparent crosses floating in water, indeed!
The romantic tale is equally interesting. He finds his wife-to-be when she is an underage stripper in his club. Althea Leasure (that can=92t be her real name) is played to a T...make that a G...by rocker Courtney Love (that can=92t be her real name). Seconds after they meet and an equa= l
number of seconds before they consummate their relationship, she brags "You=92re not the only one who=92s slept with all the women who dance her= e."
Larry and Althea=92s courtship is unlike most. After sharing three other women in a hot tub with him, Althea proposes and is astonished to learn that her intended has confused the word "marriage" with a desire on her part for monogamy.
Harrelson captures the self-confessed scumbag perfectly for the screen. His transformation after Flynt is shot and ironically paralyzed below the waist by an unknown assassin is top notch. Love is wonderful as the bi-sexual devil-may-care temptress who later becomes drug addicted, contracts AIDS and withers away before our eyes. Their scenes towards the end of her life are touching no matter how you judge their
Flynt's life is not exactly the stuff of traditional role models and this film barely touches on the question of whether "Hustler" promoted violence towards women, but it certainly is one of the few Must-Sees that have come our way.
[This appeared in the 1/16/97 "Bloomington Voice", Bloomington Indiana. Michael Redman can be contacted at [email protected] ]
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