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People vs. Larry Flynt
"All I'm guilty of is bad taste."
There's one thing Cranky can see in common between Larry Flynt, the pornographer whose travails are chronicled in Milos Forman's The People v. Larry Flynt, and the pornographer who lives down the block from Cranky (Al Goldstein of Screw magazine). They both have incredible anger matched only by an incredibly wicked sense of humor.
A copy of the shooting script for The People v. Larry Flynt made its way to my desk about two months ago. It was a one-sitting read, and my only concern was that, if it came to the screen as written, it would be a long sucker -- 160 minutes. The release version is two hours on the nose, according to my paperwork, and short of being a little clunky as Flynt's history is laid out, it's a well paced two hours.
Flynt raised himself from dirt, almost literally, running strip clubs in which there is almost no nudity. That's a kow-tow to the ratings system, folks. Those teens out there who may sneak into the "R" rated flick expecting to see the same kind of stuff you do in Hustler magazine, which Flynt publishes, are going to be mightily disappointed. For those of us old enough to purchase Hustler (and no, I don't) the finished movie is a very entertaining piece of work.
Woody Harrelson plays Flynt, the kind of person who uptight folk wish someone would shoot to put out of their misery. When he is shot and paralyzed, the story gets all the more unbelievable. Except for the fact that it's a true tale.
Courtney Love plays his wife, Althea. There's been a major buzz floating about first timer Love's performance (she leads the band Hole but is perhaps best known as the widow of Kurt Cobain), and it is right on the money. From the not-so-innocent underage dancer in Flynt's club to her final fate, Love's performance is very believable. More to the point is that you will believe that their marriage was a real thing. That a man who could get sex at the snap of a finger could truly care for one woman. If you didn't, the entire endgame of the movie would not be believable. But it is.
The movie focuses on Flynt's battle to protect his First Amendment rights, on his assertion that his rights as a publisher are no less valid than those of other publishers of men's magazines. Flynt admits that he is a smut peddler, that what he publishes is in bad taste. Central to the story is a libel suit over a parody of a Campari ad in which the Reverend Jerry Falwell (Richard Paul) relates losing his virginity to his mother in an outhouse.
Also keeping things interesting is the concept of hypocrisy. Interestingly enough one of Flynt's first attackers was Charles Keating (James Cromwell), who later went to jail as one of the greatest crooks in the history of the S&L scams. On the flip side is Flynt's conversion to Christianity, brought about by Ruth Carter Stapleton (Donna Hanover). It doesn't change his ways all that much for all that long a time. But it is what happened, and it is left to you to determine how much is real and how much is tricksterism.
I saw The People v. Larry Flynt at an advance screening with a house packed full of television and film directors and their guests. The mood going in was of disbelief, as in "how could Forman make a movie about...?" There was strong applause when the closing credits rolled, and the mood going out was incredibly positive.
As with every film that earns more than a notation on my Nominations list, The People v. Larry Flynt carries the standard "Oscar race" rating of . . .
Just thought you should know: Cranky's first gig out of college was work on Forman's Hair. He didn't meet Forman then, and the memories of pain and agony caused by the horrible sunburns suffered during the shooting of the Central Park be-in have had no effect on the above review.
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