The People Vs. Larry Flynt

Milos Forman

BY James KeastPublished Jun 1, 2003

"The pervert is back!" Woody Harrelson is on a roll when he screams this line — literally wheeling his way into the offices of Hustler magazine in his gold-plated wheelchair as porn publisher Larry Flynt. And the pervert is also back in a special edition of this biopic/free speech treatise from director Milos Forman (One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, Amadeus). The film chronicles Flynt's rise as one of the world's premier porn purveyors, but is more concerned with the legal battles he fought in defence of "bad taste." "I'm the worst," he tells the court — defending him is the final line of defence for the American way of life. Initially hailed as a filmmaking masterpiece, The People Vs. Larry Flynt eventually suffered a serious backlash, not from the conservative right, who seemed to "get it" (Moral Majority preacher Jerry Falwell actually plays himself in the film) but from the extreme left of anti-porn feminists. It's just one of the layers that this DVD helps peel back, revealing Flynt as a fascinating, disturbed, twisted entrepreneur whose own personal battles are fleshed out in a featurette here. Commentary from the screenwriters is more film-oriented, while Courtney Love (who ably portrays Flynt's lifelong love Althea) promises to "dish the dirt" on a cast commentary that also includes edited snippets from Harrelson and Edward Norton (who plays an amalgam of Flynt's lawyers). How entertaining it is depends on your tolerance for Love, who cackles and snorts her way through the commentary, seemingly barely watching the film. Free speech absolutists who make up the choir to whom Flynt preaches may not find the film all that shocking, in retrospect, but it's still an entertaining ride. A special edition that expands on Larry Flynt's life — since this is as close to a biography as mainstream America will tolerate about him — is an excellent companion to this fascinating film. Extras: cast and screenwriter commentaries; two featurettes; deleted scenes. (Columbia Tristar)

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