Larry Flynt was never a name that I recognized with the immediacy of,
say, Hugh Hefner or Bob Guccione. Not that those names incur recognition
for everyone, but I will confess to reading at least a few of each of
their respective publications. I'd been wanting to see this film since
it was released to theaters, but the local cineplex decided not to screen
it until I'd practically forgotten about it and then only for a single
People vs. Larry Flynt (1996)
Starring: Woody Harrelson, Courtney Love,
and Edward Norton
However, with the release of
this movie in 1996, Flynt practically became a household name. This
film chronicles his rise from a Cincinnati strip
club owner to the publisher of one of the most controversial adult magazines
available to the public. Flynt decided to take his strip club's newsletter
and turn it into a full fledged magazine with nude pictures and stories
that catered to those that couldn't relate to the relatively high-brow
text found in Playboy. Hustler magazine initially teetered on bankruptcy
until Flynt stirred controversy by printing photos that allegedly showed
Jackie Onassis nude. After that, Flynt continued to stir controversy by
taking anything that the general public held sacred and turning it into
something vulgar. (Example: Hustler printed risqué cartoons that
involved characters from The Wizard of Oz or Santa Claus). Public reaction
took many forms of outrage, including an attempt on Flynt's life which
left him paralyzed from the waist down.
With his wife, Althea (Courtney Love), and brother, Jimmy (Brett Harrelson),
in tow, Flynt positioned the magazine to take on the world. But, when
the magazine ran a parody of a liquor ad that takes shots at Jerry Falwell
(Richard Paul), leader of the Moral Majority, during the conservative
Reagan years, Falwell slaps Flynt with a libel suit which leads to an
eventual showdown in the Supreme Court.
Larry Flynt, as played by Woody Harrelson, is at once endearing and repulsive.
Harrelson deserved his Academy Award and Golden Globe nominations for
his performance. His depiction of Flynt's deterioration over the years
is wonderfully handled. The pain, both emotional and physical, is visible
on his face. But Harrelson never makes Flynt out to be a hero of mythic
proportions. He simply is a man that feeds the public what he feels it
wants to see.
Courtney Love's drug-addled Althea may not seem like much of a stretch
for some people, but it is a great performance and I'd love to see her
in more films. She stumbles around a lot but doesn't over do the drugged-out
behavior and manages to remain likable through most of the film in much
the same odd way that Harrelson's Larry Flynt does.
Edward Norton, as the Flynts' lawyer, Alan Issacman, is also part of
the formula that makes this movie so good. He can't stand to see Flynt
make a mockery of the courtroom, but can't refuse the man when his legal
services are needed. A winning performance, if a bit smallish in terms
of screen time, that could have been a throwaway part if someone else
had played it.
Director Milos Forman turns what could have been a damning documentation
of the magazine's alleged obscenity into a rousing anti-censorship tract.
That's not a bad thing at all. The strong performances make this a movie
to watch for on the video store shelf.
advertisement in one issue of Hustler shows a reward for information
leading to the arrest of the killer of JFK. Woody Harrelson's has
publically stated that his late father was possibly one of the hobos
mentioned in Jim Garrison's book about the assassination and possible
conspiracy. (Source: The
Internet Movie Database)