The People vs. Larry Flynt Movie Review
Whether or not it's successful, the filmmakers deserve every bit of praise for having the guts to make a movie like this, especially in an age where Washington constantly cries foul over Hollywood's depictions of sex and violence. And believe me, The People vs. Larry Flynt has plenty of both.
Following Flynt's (Woody Harrelson) life from juvenile Kentucky moonshiner to Ohio strip joint owner to the multi-millionaire ruler of a publishing empire, the film lays out the facts and doesn't make any judgments. Instead, we are invited to decide for ourselves, as the movie turns around Flynt's almost perpetual run-ins with the law, with anti-porn crusaders like Jerry Falwell and Charles Keating, and folds in Flynt's loving (and kinda sick) relationship with his wife Althea (Courtney Love).
The biggest surprise in Flynt is a five-star performance by Harrelson. After a series of idiotic movies like Indecent Proposal and Money Train, who knew there was an actual actor under there? Edward Norton also redeems himself from the boneheaded Primal Fear, playing Flynt's long-suffering attorney Isaacman. Again, another pleasant surprise.
But what truly baffles me is how Harrelson's finest hour is being overshadowed in the press by the performance of Courtney Love, who is undoubtedly one of the worst actresses I've ever seen, even in a role that was custom-made for her meager talents. That Love is perfectly credible as a stripper/drug addict is no surprise; it's her credibility as an actress (i.e. when she opens her mouth) that is more difficult to swallow, and it is her laughable performance that almost manages to topple Flynt from greatness. I can only assume that people are confusing acting ability with a good makeup job.
The People vs. Larry Flynt is not particularly well-written, glossing over a ton of details, often favoring shock value to storytelling. Considering this is the life of Larry Flynt, you can't really fault the writers for this, but the linear plot progression often feels incidental to the rest of the picture. Still, Flynt's story is compelling enough to provide its own momentum, and with Milos Forman (Amadeus) behind the camera, it does.
As to whether Flynt is a crusader for freedom or the Anti-Christ, you'll have to draw your own conclusion. In the meantime, here's something to think about: Why is the movie called The People vs. Larry Flynt when the big case in the film is Flynt vs. Falwell? Discuss amongst yourselves.