"Redefining 'barely legal' for 30 years and running"
Something of an authorized biography, with all the soft-pedaling that term implies, LF:TRTBLA works well enough as an informative overview of the world's most notorious pornographer, but it's too one-sided and reverent of its subject to be of much use beyond that.Interspersed with contemporary interviews featuring the creaky-voiced porn huckster himself, the doc is largely given over to archival footage that collectively take the form of Larry Flynt's Greatest Hits: Flynt arrested for obscenity and hauled off to various courtrooms; Flynt amusingly thumbing his nose at authority figures; Flynt denounced by talking heads from "Ohioans for Decency"; Flynt shot and crippled by a white-power lunatic objecting to interracial photos in HUSTLER; Flynt running for President (complete with expletive-spiked TV ad, seen here); Flynt sued by Jerry Falwell--who took offense a satirical cartoon claiming that he lost his virginity to Mommy--and later finding himself, oddly, befriending his former foe (a home movie depicting Falwell frolicking on a water slide provides the most eye-crossingly weird image in the film). Flynt is such a vivid, earthy character that what could have been a paint-by-numbers portrait stays fairly compelling, even if it's mostly composed of materials already known to the general public.
But what the film lacks is balance. Flynt has been criticized on grounds other than merely being an affront to public morals--for example, it's been suggested that, for all his I-did-it-my-way bluster, he has at times self-censored material at HUSTLER to avoid offending advertisers--but there are few serious opposing voices represented here. And Flynt's not terribly persuasive when he dismisses the Andrea Dworkin/anti-porn crowd--ludicrously--as belonging to what he terms "the feminist right." In fact, Flynt's pontifications tend to reveal a somewhat unsubtle mind, to put it gently. Here's Larry waving away his flirtation with Christianity: "Every significant war since the beginning of time has all been fought over religion." Oh, really? Is that why we were in Vietnam? And when he argues for "the right to be left alone," neither Flynt nor the filmmakers seem to be aware that he's invoking a value most commonly associated with the conservatives he affects to despise.A Deep Thinker this man is not. But as a skilled political street fighter, a man with a certain abrasive, hard-won charm, he isn't bad company for 90 minutes or so.