My List: The People Vs. Larry Flynt (1996)

The People Vs. Larry Flynt.jpg

Rating: 8.5/10

Here’s a biopic about the king of porn and creator of Hustler magazine, Larry Flynt (Woody Harrelson) as he fights the law at every turn when the moral majority says that printing smut is a crime. He’s not always in the right, legally, but he always pushes onward knowing that the First Amendment should protect his freedom of speech, even if certain groups disagree with what he’s printing. As the story goes through his legal troubles, it also goes through the story of his life as he meets his wife Althea (Courtney Love) and lawyer and best friend, Alan Isaacman (Edward Norton) and all the trials and tribulations that come with running a pornography company. He gets in a legal battle with Jerry Falwell for creating a parody article that pushed them both all the way to the Supreme Court to decide just how much the First Amendment protected America’s right to say what they want.

Unfortunately, this movie goes through the plot structure you’d see in almost any biopic. They start with his childhood, even though it’s not really that important, goes through many aspects of his life whether or not the tone really fits with the rest of the movie, and end with a series of text-on-a-freeze-frame shots that tell you what everyone else is doing with their lives. What sets this movie apart from other “standard” biopics is that it’s not just going through the motions. Instead it’s using it as a framework to tell the story of one man who took a stand against corrupt people and laws during a time when the majority didn’t see any problems at all. That morals could outway artistic integrity and Larry stood up and said that he had a right to peddle smut and make fun of Jerry Falwell, or any public figure, all he wanted to.

Also, I think the acting from our principle cast is incredible. Love does a great job playing Flynt’s porn star wife and you really get a sense that the two are very much in love. Harrelson is incredibly entertaining and interesting to watch as Flynt, whether he’s making jokes at a judges expense or making a point by firing his entire staff, he never loses the character’s natural charisma and really brings Flynt to life on screen. Norton’s Isaacman steals every scene he’s in until Harrelson steals it right back again. Really good acting though, very commendable.

I compliment this movie’s use of jump cuts. I don’t think I’ve seen a movie that had as many jump cuts as this movie and still used them as well every time. It could be something like this: Flynt is arrested for selling his magazine, then jump cut to a day later and he’s coming out of the jail’s front door after posting bale. It both gets to the point faster and keeps the movie’s quick pace moving. It’s nicely done, but outside of that the editing and cinematography wasn’t much more than what you’d expect in a movie like this, good, just not great. Still, great jump cuts.

Why it’s on my list: It’s one of those films that stands out among biopics with great acting, directing, and editing. Also says an awful lot about what the First Amendment rights mean to have to free speech, along with what censorship could do in any country when it starts getting out of hand. They should show this movie to people in high school history class, though they wouldn’t due to censorship.

+8: Entertaining and informative biopic

-1: Copy-and-paste biopic plot points

+1: Impressive acting

+0.5: nice use of jump cuts

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