The Fast Forward Revue

Gonzo: The Life and Work of Dr. Hunter S. Thompson by kswitz
July 19, 2008, 2:26 am
Filed under: Author: kswitz, Cinema, Literature, Politics

Fast Forward Rating: FFFF (4 out of 5)

Gonzo (2008)

Let me just begin by admitting that I have always had a love-fear relationship with Dr Thompson and his writings: on the one hand, I think they’re brilliant, full of life, and hilarious; on the other hand, the conservative in me (I confess: it is there) gets a bit scared at times by all this seemingly senseless talk of guns, motorcycles, and trashed hotel rooms… (The psychedelia and drug-talk, however, I dig).

But anyway, going in to the film with this pre-existing leeriness, I must say that I left the theatre convinced completely and totally that old Dr Gonzo was the best thing to happen to journalism (and probably politics) in the modern era.

And why is this? The guy’s philosophies, on first glance, seem shallow and all about “straight-laced greedy political swine vs. freak power”, and guns, good times, and lots and lots of drugs. But upon closer examination, and placed in context of the world in which they were written, Thompson’s words take on a new, and ultimately nobler meaning: his writing, and in fact many of the actions in his life (he ran for Sheriff of Aspen once) were a well-disguised fight for the truth-speaking underdog, the man who would never be popular with Those In Power, but who, if elected, would shake some Truth and Right into the system of the government, giving the people a People’s kind of fair, as opposed to the law’s kind. It becomes more and more apparent throughout the film just how awesome and well-meaning Hunter’s ambitions were, and by the end you can’t help but love him and wish there were others like him (albeit calmer), everywhere.

So: about the film itself: biographically its focus is on Thompson’s years as a journalist (it mentions little of his family history, etc), chronicling his author’s debut as biographer of the Hell’s Angels biker gang in the California area in the 1960’s, to his celebrity-making success with counter-culture portrait Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas, all the way through to his political years, first in a bid for the position of Sheriff in Pitkin County, Colorado, and finally his years as political journalist and commentator covering many of the primary and presidential elections of the 1960’s and 70’s. It goes into his personal life in some detail, though it is more about his political and personal beliefs, and it chronicles the start, pinnacle, and slow decline of Thompson’s skills and determination as a both a writer and an activist, ending with his suicide in 2005, which the film attributes to his loss of belief in his power to change the world, as well as his “all or nothing” nature in competition.

The only things I have to say against this film, which is absolutely brilliant, is that it runs a biiit too long (118 minutes, but remember it’s a biography), and that towards the end it gets a bit depressing… which makes sense, as they’re dealing with suicide, but I don’t like it… Y’know?

I would highly recommend that everyone who reads this review goes out and sees the film as soon as possible, and tried to learn a lesson or two from good old Hunter S.

God knows this world will need it.


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