The People vs. Larry Flynt: Special Edition

January 28, 2012 9 Min Read

Review by: Fusion3600

Plot: What’s it about?

Larry Flynt. From bootlegging moonshine as a child to producing Hustler magazine to challenging the Supreme Court, this picture follows Flynt’s life, and we watch how things got to be the way they are. A young Flynt (Woody Harrelson) own a strip club, and decides to make a small magazine which features naked women. It’s a hit, so he gathers his savings, and makes a real magazine, only to see the first issue totally flop. Needing something fast, Flynt receives a call from a photographer who has nude photos of Jackie O. Of course, Flynt buys the photos, and the next issue sells like hotcakes, putting Hustler magazine in the spotlight, and making Flynt very rich. Along with his wife Althea (Courtney Love), Flynt and his group of friends challenge all sorts of taboos with their magazine, and end up in trouble often. Will Flynt be able to publish whatever he wants, or will the religious sector decide for us all what we should read or see?

This movie was a critical success, and was touted as a “free speech” movie, that is, it rallied around the idea that Flynt was all about free speech. Well, I disagree there. This movie is about the naked female form, and one man’s fight to profit from it. Of course, not everyone is offended by nudity, but I’m sure there are those that are. If you are offended by nudity or sexual situations, stay away from this movie, because there is quite a bit of it. But, if you are open minded, and don’t mind a bit of naughty bits and curse words, this picture is worth your time. It is based on the life and times of Larry Flynt, and believe me, that premise alone was enough to scare many movie goers off. But the film is well directed (Milos Forman) and has some unbelievable performances in it. So even if you don’t like the subject matter, the performances are sure to impress.

Woody Harrelson is awesome, by far his best role yet, even though I loved him in Natural Born Killers. He brings such energy and vigor to the character, and really brings a human side to the seemingly shallow Flynt. Harrelson was critically praised for his role, as was newcomer Courtney Love, who some of you recognize from the band Hole. She really shines here, and I was shocked at just how good an actress she is. A small role as a judge lets us see the real Larry Flynt, which I thought was cool, and it was interesting to see how many people recognized him. Not many, by the way, at least in my house and theater. There are also many decent supporting roles as well, played by James Carville, Ed Norton, and James “That’ll do Pig. That’ll do.” Cromwell. Norton is great, and he only gets better in his next features.

In closing, this picture is fun to watch, but a bit too emotional. I mean, I love free speech, and I like the fact that a movie would bring Flynt’s tribulations into light, but come on. This seems like way too much glamorizing, and I don’t think, from what I’ve read and seen, that Flynt was this likable of a person. But hey, I don’t know the guy, I just read articles and watch television, maybe I’m wrong. But, if you look beyond all that garbage, you get a great film with tremendous acting. Love and Harrelson are enough reason alone to make this disc part of your collection. Yeah, it is filled with profanity and nudity, but hey, so are most movies. You know ahead of time if you watch a movie about Larry Flynt, you are gonna see breasts and behinds, that’s a simple fact. So, much like what Flynt says in this movie, if you don’t like this movie, don’t watch it. But you should watch it, at least once. And now that Columbia has gone back and given this movie the kind of special treatment it deserves, there’s no excuse not to add this movie to your collection.

Video: How does it look?

The People vs. Larry Flynt is presented in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen. This seems to be the same treatment found on the previous release, but I noted some small improvements this time around. The same print is used, which isn’t bad news at all, since the earlier release had a clean appearance. I did find the image here to be a tad crisper, perhaps due to the extra space this dual layered disc provides. The colors look bright and natural, while flesh tones (and there’s a lot of flesh here) seem normal and consistent. No troubles with contrast either, as black levels come across as bold and accurate throughout. A few minor quibbles do pop up, but none pose a distraction, so no need for serious concerns. This is a more than solid visual effort, one which offers a slight improvement over the previous treatment.

Audio: How does it sound?

The same Dolby Digital 5.1 option is found here, which means we have a solid, but not too memorable presentation. This material does allow for some active presence at times, but a lot of time is soaked up by dialogue, so don’t expect too much. Even so, when the movie does kick open the door for the surrounds, this soundtrack responds and offers some kick, so you can’t fault the audio in that respect. The film is fueled by more reserved, dialogue driven scenes however, so the dialogue and subtle audio are crucial here. There is some nice use of the subtle elements to create a natural environment, which adds a lot to the experience. The dialogue is smooth and well presented also, so no vocals are lost or muffled here. This disc also includes Spanish and French language tracks, as well as subtitles in English, Spanish, French, Portuguese, Chinese, and Thai, so if you love subtitles, you’ll love this assortment.

Supplements: What are the extras?

The previous release was a bare bones effort, but now Columbia has given us a full on Special Edition. We’ll start with the audio commentary tracks, the first with stars Woody Harrelson, Courtney Love, and Edward Norton, and the second session with writers Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski. I would have loved a Milos Forman commentary track, but these two sessions are great and offer endless insights. You’ll hear open, candid comments in each track, as the speakers detail the production, including some humorous stories. Next up are two featurettes, one that looks at the behind the scenes of the production, while the other takes a closer peek at Flynt’s real life escapades. Each runs right around half an hour and prove to be worthwhile, if just to learn about the film’s controversial moments and the real life events that inspired it all. This disc also includes a New York Times reprinted review, two deleted scenes (w/ optional audio comments), some talent files, and the film’s theatrical trailer.

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