Title to the contrary, Milos Forman's ham-fisted reclamation of the real-life smut peddler who founded the scabrous Hustler magazine and fought his way to the Supreme Court for the right to mock the Rev. Jerry Falwell is not fundamentally a lesson in First Amendment
ethics. Sure, it makes the valid and always worth reiterating point that your freedom of speech is predicated on the freedom of speech of white-trash perverts, who may well use it to discuss Dorothy and her little friends from Oz having an orgy -- don't forget little Toto! But it's really an epic
romance that casts gleefully tasteless, backwoods pornographer Flynt (Woody Harrelson) and underage, bisexual stripper-turned-junkie Althea Leasure (Courtney Love) as lovers and inseparable soul mates in the grand tradition of Tristan and Isolde. And on that level it succeeds spectacularly.
Flynt's cornpone showmanship eventually wears thin -- though his impassioned avowal that if God created women's genitals, it's the next best thing to a holy duty to glorify them in girlie pictures is especially meretriciously entertaining. But long after you've grown tired of his escapades, the
scenes in which he and Althea support one another against the slings an arrows of outrageous fortune are touching and, ultimately, genuinely tragic.
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