It may not seem like it at first, but Miloš Forman’s biographical black humor drama about Hustler porn magazine publisher Larry Filnt is actually a film about the fight for the right to freedom of speech. At a time when a grotesque Kentucky Krkan runs a slimy strip club or runs a hardcore porn magazine that is the complete opposite of an elegant and erotic Playboy and then raises millions and moves to a California villa, it certainly doesn’t look like that. But after a rather caricatured introduction and acquaintance with the character and work of this extremely persistent but witty guy, the vast majority of the film that brought Forman the Golden Bear in Berlin deals with Flynt’s lawsuits and his fight against censorship.
The producer of “The People vs. Larry Flynt” was Oliver Stone and Forman made this film almost in the typical Stone style from the second half of the eighties. The story here develops quickly and dynamically, and practically from the beginning it is clear to us who Larry Flynt (Woody Harrelson) is. A typical raw primitive from the American passive regions who obviously had a clicker for business and for hoarding money. He is a disgusting guy who, in the end, must be dear to you when one sees that he is the red rag for all these conservatives, stupid hypocrites and even bigger slimes and perverts than himself.
We follow here Flynt’s life story over a period of almost 35 years. Since the early 1950s when he and his brother Jimmy (played as adult Woody’s brother Brett) have been selling Moonshine as kids in rural Kentucky, and twenty years later we see them running an obscure striptease bar. The business is not going well, and to encourage him, Larry will start publishing flyers for the club with photos of naked dancers. These promotional flyers will soon grow into a real porn magazine, and sales will push the boundaries when she publishes nude paparazzo photos of Jackie Kennedy in the early 1970s. At the same time, he will fall in love with one of his dancers, Althea (Courteney Love), an equally grotesque madwoman who will become his life companion.
As soon as he gets rich overnight, Larry will start behaving just the way such primitive people who got rich quick usually behave. He will spend a lot of money on bad taste, on fairies, on drugs, and when money and success come, enemies will begin to appear, that is, a whole line of those who would like him and his magazine to be gone. Very soon Flynt seems to find greater pleasure in fighting all those who hate him and he, with the help of young lawyer Alan Isaacman (Edward Norton) will enter into a number of legal battles, all the way to the Supreme Court. Although Forman portrayed Flynt as a true caricature, as an unimaginably grotesque type and a complete lunatic, one must really imagine when one realizes that one such type has actually managed to defend the right to freedom of expression from types who are actually much, much worse.
And most interesting of all, Flynt found himself under the worst accusations not because of pornography, but because of a vulgar and utterly distasteful parody at the expense of some priest who sued him for violating his dignity and demanded $ 40 million. If the court will protect garbage like me, then it will probably protect everyone else, is the legendary Flynt sentence that perhaps best depicts his character and work, and the style chosen by Forman and the way the protagonist is portrayed was actually the only one possible to better portrayed such a guy. Oscar nominations were also earned by Harrelson for Best Actor and Forman for Director, and the great thing is that Flynt appears in the cameo role (and the judge!).
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