The People vs. Larry Flynt - * * *

Director Milos Forman delivers an effective Free Speech plea along with an entertaining movie. The film follows the true life story of Larry Flynt (Woody Harrelson), a low class guy who panders to the baser needs of people in order to make a buck. As a kid, he and his brother run moonshine, and later they own a string of strip clubs. After realizing that Playboy and Penthouse magazines are just too high-brow and not raunchy enough for those who only want nudie pictures, he launches Hustler magazine. After some early struggles, including some hilarious ineptness on the part of the magazine staff, Hustler takes off when Larry lands some publicity stirring nude photos of Jackie O. Hustler makes Larry rich, and lands him in court. The film covers several court battles over obsenity vs. free speech, involving several recognizable figures, including Charles Keating (James Cromwell) and the Rev. Jerry Falwell. Larry is defended by Alan Isaacman (Edward Norton), a young lawyer who becomes a lifelong friend. Meanwhile, Larry gets involved with a stripper named Althea Leisure (Courtney Love), who shares his naughty spirit. The film covers a wide spread of events in Larry’s life, including his conversion to Christianity, an assassination attempt, and others. Yet, through it all, the film manages to hold interest. The People vs. Larry Flynt claims not to take a pro-pornography stand, but rather a pro-free speech one. Yet the film revels in Flynt’s outrageousness, and derives much of its humor from the chance to see a naughty boy be naughty and get away with it. And most of the time it works. Woody Harrelson does a fine job as the pornography kingpin, exuding impish charm. Courtney Love does a decent job, surprising only because this is her first gig as a serious actress. Edward Norton impresses once again as the lawyer who puts up with Larry’s obnoxious behavior for a larger cause. This film is not for everyone. Those who have a disliking for Larry Flynt just from reading this review would be advised not to attend, since the film does celebrate him to an extent. But the film does present a well written and thought out argument for the case of free speech, and plenty of humor to boot.

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