The People vs Larry Flynt (1996) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)
|Very entertaining flick.
There must have been a great temptation, in writing a biographical script about a man who is still living, and in doing so with his co-operation in the filming and writing of the project, to sand and varnish some of the rougher edges of his life. And when you are talking about Larry Flynt's life, those edges are very rough indeed.
But this film, to its credit, doesn't do much of that. It depicts the years wasted, the addictions, the foolish dalliance with religion, the immature courtroom behavior, the sleaze, the poor taste, the mistakes, the nutty theories about his own shooting, the tasteless nouveau riche lifestyle he adopted, pretty much every wart Flynt and his brother and his wife and his friends ever had. One can only assume that Flynt himself must want to expose his rough edges intentionally, in a form of reverse snobbery.
I like that. I like the fact that he didn't make much effort to sugar-coat his life, because it makes the point of the movie much stronger. That point being, of course, that even the lowest scumbag is protected by the First Amendment, and that a constitution which shelters such a man under the same roof as Thomas Paine is a document which should be celebrated for that fact, not reviled. (Note: Salon.com did an excellent job at comparing and contrasting the fictional Flynt life with the real thing, and they make a good case that the film did sanitize substantially.)
I also like the fact that Flynt's strongest redeeming virtue - his iconoclastic sense of humor - was featured prominently in a movie that could otherwise have disintegrated into a boring polemic on free speech.
And I liked Milos Forman's eye for style and offbeat humor. It is amazing that he managed to bring similar approaches to the lives of men so diverse as Mozart and Flynt.
And I enjoyed the leads as well as some of the off-beat casting. Brett Harrelson, Woody's real brother, played his brother in the film. Larry Flynt himself played one of the most irritating judges along his path, and noted left-wing nutbag James Carville played the role of a right-wing nutbag. To the credit of those two men, neither portrayal deteriorated into shameless caricature. On the other hand, I don't think either should quit his day job. Assuming Carville still has a day job.
disappointment of the film is the scene that showed
Courtney Love recreating Althea Flynt's famous Hustler
pictorial. It is disappointing because it was performed
with panties on.
Don't misunderstand. This is not disappointing because I expected to see Courtney's naughty bits laid out Hustler-style, but because it was so damned dishonest.
me that this scene should have been shot in one of two
1. Have Courtney show her stuff.
2. Have the camera set up in such a way that Courtney seems to be recreating the pose accurately, but we can't actually see the goodies.
Either way would have been fine, but to do it with panties on is - well, it's un-Hustler. It suggests that the incident was shot in good taste, and that's the last thing we'd ever think of Flynt.
|The Hustler publisher
who spent so much time in court on obscenity charges
finally made it to the Supreme Court on a completely
different matter. His Supreme Court appearance wasn't
about porn at all, but rather about his right to ridicule celebrities. In my book, this places him slightly
above Paine, Jefferson, Voltaire, and Lincoln in the
defense of mankind's most important freedoms.
Flynt's victory was so essential to the interpretation of the First Amendment, that a ruling against him would have affected any form of scathing satire of public figures. Flynt's contention that Jerry Falwell lost his virginity to his mother is in principle no different from Garry Trudeau's contention that Reagan had no brain, or Rush Limbaugh's ongoing ridicule of Clinton's lesbian mafia, or ultimately my ongoing rants and lampoons about such diverse public figures as Gary Oldman, Bill Shatner, James Carville, Dan Quayle, Ken Starr, and the entire population of Nova Scotia.
If the world war made the world safe for democracy, Larry Flynt made it safe for making fun of celebrities. And which, I ask, is more important?
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