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USA 1996
Directed by
Milos Forman
124 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
3.5 stars

The People vs Larry Flynt

With the The People vs. Larry Flynt Milos Forman manages to create a largely engaging if perhaps slightly overlong film about a fairly unpleasant character, America’s No 2 (Hugh Hefner being No 1) porn king, Larry Flynt. Partly this is due to the facts of the matter partly it is due to cinematic gloss, something which Forman is particularly good at but credit should also go to scriptwriters Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski who concentrate on the ethical issues around pron without preachifying and the fine performances by a strong cast.

On one level Flynt is a remarkable character. An uneducated man who began his commercial career peddling moonshine as a boy, then running strip joints before coming up with the idea of taking on Playboy magazine with a more explicit publication, He may have been a smut peddler but a native intelligence that marked him as different from his run-of-the-mill peers and fuelled an independent spirit, led him to eventually winning a landmark First Amendment case before the US Supreme Court.

If this rag-to-riches story is on one level quite grubby we also feel some sympathy for Flynt as first he is paralysed from the waist down by a would-be assassin’s bullet and later, his drug-addicted. AIDS-suffering wife (Courtney Love) drowns in their commodious bath.

Part of the film’s appeal also comes from Forman’s sophisticated film-making skills. As Flynt, Woody Harrelson makes for one hekkuva likeable pornographer, whilst Edward Norton)  brings a squeaky clean charm to proceedings as Flynt's lawyer, Alan Isaacman. Courtney Love is surprisingly effective as Flynt’s skanky wife to whom he was, according to this film, devoted and she depicts Althea’s decline into drug addiction with compelling authenticity,

Despite the tawdriness of the subject matter in essence Forman gives us a fully fledged A list Hollywood film with a hero against-all-odds and a romance blighted by tragedy. The late scene in which a bed-ridden Flynt watches video of the now-dead Althea from the first flush of their relationship to the accompaniment of soaring music is well worth the director of Amadeus (1984)

FYI: The real Flynt appears as the unsympathetic Cincinnati judge, Although end titles tell us that Flynt's would-be killer was unknown, Joseph Paul Franklin a white supremacist and serial killer confessed to the crime but was never charged.

DVD Extras: Audio commentary with Harrelson, Love and Norton; Audio commentary with writers Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski; Deleted scenes with optional commentary; 2 behind-the-scenes featurettes; Larry Flynt – Patriot, an article from the New York Times, Talent profiles; Theatrical trailer; Hidden extra features.

Available from: Umbrella Entertainment




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