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on 2 September 2011
I bought this movie (knowing little about Larry Flynt) becasue I'm a fan of Ed Norton. Despite good (if unchallenging) performances by Norton and Courtney Love - I omit Harrelson's deliberately, because I think he was distinctly pedestrian in it - I was really disturbed by the film's agenda. My curiosity was first piqued by the singularly one-dimensional portrayal of Jerry Falwell (of whom I'm no supporter) as a smug and sanctimonious party-pooper. The film certainly seems to continue where Flynt left off in heaping ridicule upon Falwell. In that regard, if it doesn't have a hidden agenda, it certainly seems to have one that's wearing a heavy disguise. Flynt himself said of Falwell, after the latter's death "My mother always told me that no matter how much you dislike a person, when you meet them face to face you will find characteristics about them that you like. Jerry Falwell was a perfect example of that. I hated everything he stood for, but after meeting him in person, years after the trial, Jerry Falwell and I became good friends. He would visit me in California and we would debate together on college campuses. I always appreciated his sincerity even though I knew what he was selling and he knew what I was selling." This picture of Falwell - and in particular, his sincerity - is entirely absent from the movie (apart from a brief clip in the "Special Features" where Falwell himself appears, to endorse the correct mimicking of his appearance and mannerisms in his portrayal - while, significantly, obviously not having seen the film.)
Yet more disturbing was the blame laid at the door of Gloria Steinem, again in the "Special Features" interviews, for upsetting the film's trajectory to financial success. Harrelson directly criticises her, saying that her observations were made without having seen the movie (despite the fact that articles she wrote about it describe scenes in detail.) I found this allegation so very unlikely that I went looking for what she'd written about the movie and was shocked, but much illuminated, by what I found.
I had been in danger of swallowing whole the film's lie of omission that Flynt's magazine "Hustler" was harmless titlllation. Not so. Steinem writes: "In this film, produced by Oliver Stone and directed by Milos Forman, Hustler is depicted as tacky at worst, and maybe even honest for showing full nudity. What's left out are the magazine's images of women being beaten, tortured and raped, women subject to degradations from bestiality to sexual slavery. Filmgoers don't see such Hustler features as "Dirty Pool," which in January 1983 depicted a woman being gang-raped on a pool table. A few months after those pictures were published, a woman was gang-raped on a pool table in New Bedford, Mass. Mr. Flynt's response to the crime was to publish a postcard of another nude woman on a pool table, this time with the inscription, "Greetings from New Bedford, Mass. The Portuguese Gang-Rape Capital of America." "
I looked further, and, sparing you the very ugly detail, the lady ain't lyin'. Even Flynt's (now disinherited and estranged) daughter, Tonya, was so alarmed by this film's dishonesty that she joined women who picketed its opening in San Francisco. She also publicly accused Mr. Flynt of having sexually abused her when she was a child (a charge he vehemently denies, and attributes to her "mental problems.") "I'm upset about this film because it supports my dad's argument that pornography does no harm," she said. "If you want to see a victim of pornography, just look at me."
For me, despite being mildly entertaining, this film falls into the category of films I most despise: the category entitled "Hollywood Re-writes History". I wish I'd known all THAT before I paid good money for this movie. But you live and learn, eh?