Rated “R” for Sexuality, Nudity, Language
Directed By: Milos Forman
Written By: Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski
Staring: Woody Harrelson, Courtney Love, Edward Norton, Brent Harrelson, James Cromwell, Crispin Glover, Vincent Shiavelli, Richard Paul, and Donna Hanover
Shocking, engaging, compelling, and provocative are all words worthy of describing The People Vs. Larry Flynt. Released in 1996 this film hasn’t lost any of the momentum it had upon it’s release. Woody Harrelson gives the performance of his life as a man who would generally seem to be a despicable. Yet he depicted this unforgiving creature as not only likable but also evoked a tangible enthusiasm for him to succeed in his mission. Larry Flynt or his company never pretended to be anything other than what they were and throughout this compelling story we are taken on a ride of pornography mixed with the laws and rights this country gave people through the first amendment. Larry believed he had the right to exercise his offensive mouth and freedom of the press in any way he desired, and the whole film was driven by that ideal. In between the many courtroom brawls we were offered a piece of Larry’s personal life as well. The struggles and obstacles he overcame to continue to fight for his beliefs and his rights was an eventful journey full of debauchery and even sorrow.
The unsavory world of pornography is explored with Larry Flynt in his story about his fight to continue his publication by exercising his freedom of speech. It began in the city of Cincinnati where Larry ran a local strip club and decided he wanted to join the ranks of Hugh Heftner ’s Playboy. He began his magazine Hustler at first in small circulation, until it became a popular commodity and Larry was making hundreds of thousands of copies. Where he once was a local annoyance, his offensive publication was now being spread all across the country and some would stop at nothing to keep Larry from selling his magazine. He spent over twenty years being threatened and persecuted by religious zealots, sued in court, sent to jail and even was shot which caused him to be paralyzed. In between Larry’s courtroom appearances and death threats he continued to make his magazine while still maintaining his motivation to never give up.
Milos Forman really had the big picture in sight through the entirety of the film, each character and each event had relevance to the final moments of the film and what was to come. Being based on Larry’s true life story, all things obviously weren ’t going to end happily ever after, and the acceptance of the choices he and his wife Althea made together was the heart of the story.
Woody Harrelson was just phenomenal is this role. His transformation from the off balance Larry working in the club at the beginning of his career to the insane and decrepit Larry at the end of the film was an absolutely amazing evolution. He was mentally disturbed, inquisitive, and intelligent all rolled into one outrageous package. Even at his most obnoxious moments Harrelson still makes Larry a very likable guy. He is a hedonist that is all about embracing sexuality and fun coupled by his partner in crime played by Courtney Love. Althea was his muse and though Love’s role as a stripper and drug abuser was not a stretch for her, she still had a very engaging onscreen charisma that made it nearly impossible to keep your eyes off her even against the enigmatic Harrelson. Althea wasn ’t so unpredictable, but the subtleties Love brought to the character made her very complex and interesting. The voice of reason throughout the tale of madness was Larry and Althea’s lawyer played by a very fresh Edward Norton who even in this early stage in his acting career had proven his talent in Primal Fear, but really exuded his chameleon ability playing against two very strong actors that demanded your attention each time they were on screen. Nonetheless Norton made you take notice when he spoke and believe in his words.
This movie may not be straight up pornography but the content deems that naked people be everywhere, a strong sexual content, tons of foul language, and an adult themed storyline. Not only is this movie not for the young, it’s not for those easily offended by nudity or cursing. I still highly recommend this film in the hopes of understanding another side of story. What Larry stood for and the extent he went to in his desire to prove his right to use the first amendment is delivered in a film overflowing with passion. The intellect behind Larry’s madness really made the story something more than a crazy porn dealer, it was about fighting for what you believe is right no matter what the cost. Larry paid over and over again so he could run his company just as he pleased. One lesson this film delivers is that nothing is for free.