I wandered down to Sundance tonight, checked out the rooftop bar, and watched the biopic on Dr. Hunter S. Thompson, simply entitled "Gonzo." I liked the flick a lot, although it has its shortcomings.
If you are familiar with Thompson's life and works, there isn't much new here. In fact, the movie seems to follow pretty closely the oral biography of the same name put together by Jann Wenner last year. Still, it was fascinating to see some of the original footage (including the Good Doctor's appearance on "To Tell The Truth" in the mid 60's after his breakthrough book "Hell's Angels"), and especially to see and hear Ralph Steadman in action. Lots of good interviews with Wenner, Steadman, Jimmy Buffet, George McGovern, Tom Wolfe, Pat Caddell, Gary Hart, Tim Crouse, both of Hunter's wives, his son Juan, etc., etc. Surprisingly, that old crustacean Pat Buchanan is a featured interviewee. Johnny Depp narrates.
The movie focuses on and does an excellent job of capturing Thompson at the height of his skills, from about 1965-1976. You do sense the energy of the era, and his role in it as one of the leading journalists of the time, one who drove the main-stream press crazy. There is an extended segment on his wild campaign for sheriff in Aspen. It has film of Frank Mankiewicz with his famous quote that "Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail 1972" was "the most truthful and least factually accurate book about that election." That has always been my favorite book of Thompson's, and I may have to pull it out again for another read.
It is just over 2 hours long, has a number of hilarious and emotional sequences, an excellent soundtrack (Dylan, CCR, Hendrix, Buffet, among others) and a very moving final interview with Jann Wenner.
If I have any quibble with the movie, it is that it speeds through and thus tends to gloss over the last 15 years of Thompson's life when he had totally lost his writing skills and became a living hell to be around. Wenner's book does a much better job portraying those tragic final years. Even so, there is a scary sequence of Thompson's first story after 9/11, in which he predicts almost everything this country has gone through since that day.
If you are a fan of Hunter S. Thompson, you should see this movie. If you know nothing about the guy, you will find this movie quite informative. If you are somewhere in between, eh, hard to say ....
Here is the movie's website if you want to see the trailer, which is pretty appealing:
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