An unlikely defender of free speech in The People vs. Larry Flynt
Larry Flynt has a compelling argument for almost everything. To his long-suffering attorney threatening to quit, Flynt gives three reasons why he shouldn’t: “I’m fun, I’m rich, and I’m always in trouble.”
To a reporter who wants to know why Flynt’s often outrageous behavior should be tolerated, he says, “Because I’m the worst.
Has there been a more unlikely symbol of free speech? Larry Flynt, the publisher of the American pornographic magazine scammer, took the fight for his right to freedom of expression to the Supreme Court of his country. In 1996, Milos Forman turned Flynt’s central argument – every American, even a salacious pornography publisher, should be allowed to say what they want – into a hugely entertaining absurdist comedy. The People vs. Larry Flynt. The film is streaming on Apple TV+.
Woody Harrelson brilliantly portrays the hustler behind scammer that balances the business possibilities of the carnal with an astute understanding of America’s most pressing issues. Harrelson plays Flynt with unabashed flamboyance and unexpected warmth.
Written with wit and intelligence by Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski (Ed Wood, Dolemite is my name), the biopic charts Flynt’s transformation from strip club owner to successful contender for Playboy and Penthouse. Flynt’s assaults on public morals attract a series of lawsuits. His disregard for authority earned him contempt of court notices. A media circus turns serious when a sniper attack leaves Flynt half-paralyzed.
Which is worse, nudes or war, Larry Flynt rhetorically asks in his defense. Another way to ask the question is, what if we could see a movie star’s butt? Flynt might have laughed a lot at musician Yashraj Mukhate’s hilarious parody of Ranveer Singh’s nude photoshoot kerfuffle.
Did Milos Forman see Larry Flynt as a kindred spirit? Forman was one of the leading figures of the Czech New Wave of the 1960s. He left the former Czechoslovakia after his political satire The firemen’s ball was banned (the film did not resurface until years later). Forman struck Hollywood gold with Flight over a cuckoo’s nest in 1975, and went on to make a series of well-regarded films in a range of styles.
In The People vs. Larry Flynt, Flynt’s outward demeanor comes with just the right amount of trickery. Forman’s skill with acting yields fine performances from Courtney Love, as Flynt’s supportive wife Althea, and Edward Norton as Flynt’s loyal advocate.
Read also :
Five stars only: ‘Le Bal des Pompiers’
Start the week with a film: Revolution, perseverance and love in “Cuba and the cameraman”
Start the week with a film: ‘Love’ and the things we do for love