In the opening scene of The People Vs. Larry Flynt, Larry as a child is seen selling moonshine, and when he finds his father “drinking his profits,” he throws an empty bottle at his head. After running from his dad who is shooting at him, Larry tells his brother he’s “just trying to make an honest buck.”
This is the story of the American dream — wanting it, achieving it, living it — and how a poor kid from Ohio made a difference, even if he used pornography to do it.
Flynt was no hero in the sense that he gallantly swooped in and saved the day. But because of his fight, one interpretation of the First Amendment was protected.
Directed by Milos Foreman, who received an Oscar nomination for Flynt, the film is about a rebel who wasn’t going to let anyone prevent him from making that honest buck.
In 1996, Flynt was the latest rebel whose story Foreman told, following his multiple Oscar winners in consecutive decades with One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest in 1975 and Amadeus in 1984. In 1999, he detailed the late comic Andy Kaufman’s life in Man on the Moon.
Foreman, here, shows Flynt (played brilliantly by the also Oscar nominated Woody Harrelson) at his best and worst and still has him come out living the American dream.
And that’s what The People Vs. Larry Flynt celebrates — not the filth that showed up on the pages of Hustler magazine, or the extravagantly “immoral” lifestyle in which Flynt participated in as a result, but the fact that he did what he wanted to do and he fought and beat the system that tried to keep him down.
After making millions in the adult-use industry and turning a dodgy strip-club operation into a pornography empire, he took on the legal system.
In one humorous scene, Larry and his entourage ride in a limo and discuss who would have tried to shoot him. They list every “psychopathic group in America” from the CIA to the mafia. But the group whose individuals he really did the number on was the Christian right.
Jerry Falwell will forever be remembered for his court battles with Flynt, who put the fanatical moralist up to ridicule and got away with it courtesy of the Supreme Court.
Flynt fought for his right to make unpopular speech within the laws of the United States. In the end, it’s a simple story about a simple man who had a simple dream.
It’s a story about patriotism and what we fight for every day.
Larry Flynt is no hero — he’s just a guy trying to make an honest buck. And stories like his are what make this country great.
Contact Will Albritton at firstname.lastname@example.org