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[Tribeca ’21] ‘Larry Flynt for President’ review: Shameless smut peddler or voice for the voiceless?

Moving the repressive hand of government from the crotch of America

Larry Flynt for President looks at one of the most interesting Presidential campaigns of all time. Even more fascinating is how ahead of its time “smut peddler’ Flynt’s run for the Republican presidential nomination was. It is hard not to look back on the Hustler founder’s run and see the later Trump campaigns. The documentary recently screened at the Tribeca Festival. 

Flynt’s improbable run began in 1978 after after an assassination attempt left him paralyzed. This led to drug abuse and crippling depression. It was years before he was able to get his life together again. A run for President gave him the drive he needed. Before long, he was in a gold plated wheelchair and travelling the country making grandiose promises and making unflattering comments about women. (Again, it all sounds very familiar.) 

Larry Flynt for President chronicles a campaign that was as much publicity stunt as it was an actual political movement. What separates it from other mock campaigns is Flynt truly believed in his message. He was a staunch defender of the First Amendment. (Though the fact he was angering the same people he was sure wanted him dead provided some incentive.)

Larry Flynt for President draws parallels to a recent former President.

The documentary may draw parallels to a former President, but it is all about Flynt. From his humble beginnings to his plan to have every minority represented in his cabinet, Larry Flynt for President is a deep dive into a fascinating character. Director Nadia Szold’s pulls no punches. Flynt is not held up as pure hearted defender of the American Dream. The more domineering parts of his character are also on display. 

The abundance of behind the scenes footage adds to Larry Flynt for President. This includes highlighting the importance of his wife Althea and some of the wilder moments of the campaign. It all paints a picture of a complicated man who was part huckster, part provocateur, and all American. Whether that is a good or bad thing is up to the viewer to decide.

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