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Laramie Movie Scope:
The People Versus Larry Flynt

The porno guy saves the Constitution. Yeah, right.

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by Robert Roten, Film Critic
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January 12, 1997 -- "The People Vs. Larry Flynt" arrived in Laramie amid much hype about its Oscar potential and it is a good film with good performances. The trouble is, it's about Larry Flynt.

If somebody had to go to bat for freedom of the press, why couldn't it have been somebody noble, like Martin Luther King, for instance? That's the breaks. There are some great arguments for the First Amendment in the film. The trouble is, most of them are made by, you guessed it, Mr. Porno himself, Larry Flynt.

It is hard to work up much sympathy for Flynt, brilliantly played by Woody Harrelson, or his wife, Althea Leasure, played by rock star Courtney Love. Courtney plays this part like she knows how a drug addict married to an out-of-control egomaniac feels.

I don't know how historically accurate this film is, but it makes it appear as if Flynt became a wealthy publisher by doing nothing more that publishing sexually-explicit photos that not even Hugh Hefner would publish. While that does take audacity, it's not admirable. Flynt is, in essence, the dark side of capitalism.

Another part of the film covers Flynt's conversion to Christianity and then his conversion, by bullet, to atheism. After kicking his addiction to pain-killing drugs, Flynt really does seem to lose his marbles, but never his will to survive.

His wife, however, spirals downward until she is a mere shadow of her former self. Their love for each other seems to be their only redeeming quality. For all its blathering about the First Amendment, this movie is really a love story, and a good one at that.

It's too bad that neither Larry Flynt nor his wife had nothing more to share with the world in their publications than sexually-oriented photos. Two people with such wealth and power could have had at least a little positive influence on the world.

I suppose this movie was made so that Hollywood could take some parting shots at Jerry Falwell, Charles Keating, Ronald Reagan and the whole mentality of the 1980s. It's just too bad they couldn't find a more worthy marksman than Larry Flynt to take those shots.

Although I couldn't quite bring myself to care about the main characters in the film, I had to admire the fine acting performances that went into it. By the way, James Carville, the real life politician who engineered Bill Clinton's presidential victory, plays Simon Leis in the film, and does a good job.

Woody Harrelson's brother Brett, plays Flynt's brother, Jimmy in the film. Crispin Glover ("Back to the Future") makes a comeback of sorts in this film, playing Flynt's sidekick, Arlo. Director Milos Forman does a good job riding herd on this film, even though it tries to cover too much ground.

This film did nothing to rectify the ambivalent feelings I had in the first place about Larry Flynt. He did defend the Constitution at a time when it was under attack, but this was not a redeeming act. If you make a movie about sleazy people is there any way to make the movie anything other than sleazy? This film doesn't prove it can be done.

The film includes nude images of Courtney Love, among others. During one scene a Hustler cameraman is taking photos of a woman's vagina. Flynt argues why this is O.K., but in the film, they blur over the shot. It seems to me if the makers of this film really believed in this film they would have shown that shot. They didn't, because that would have resulted in the dreaded NC-17 rating, and that would have cost the filmmakers money. It all comes down to money, for the filmmakers and for Flynt. It's not about principle at all. This film rates a B.

Click here for links to places to buy this movie in video and/or DVD format, the soundtrack, books, even used videos, games and lots of other stuff. I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.

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Copyright © 1997 Robert Roten. All rights reserved.
Reproduced with the permission of the copyright holder.
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Robert Roten can be reached via e-mail at my last name at lariat dot org. [Mailer button: image of letter and envelope]

(If you e-mail me with a question about this or any other movie or review, please mention the name of the movie you are asking the question about, otherwise I may have no way of knowing which film you are referring to)