Gonzo: The Life & Times of Dr. Hunter S. Thompson
Directed by: Alex Gibney
Starring: Hunter S. Thompson, Johnny Depp, Pat Buchanan
Time: 1.5 hours
Plot: This documentary takes us through … well … the life and times of the prolific writer/reporter Hunter S. Thompson. The film mainly focuses on the 60s and 70s and Thompson’s involvement and contributions to the culture.
Who’s It For? The film isn’t just for Hunter freaks. This documentary does a great job of taking us through the turbulent decades of social change and focuses on the parallels of Vietnam and Iraq.
Expectations: I knew of Thompson through three main outlets … The Depp film Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, his writing with Rolling Stone, and his writing with ESPN’s Page 2. Simply put, I was curious for more.
Dr. Hunter S. Thompson: There are tons of images, but surprisingly I didn’t feel like I was getting to hear Thompson do much talking. His love of guns is shown, but no judgments are made with his life or his suicide.
Johnny Depp: Depp is the only one I would have accepting reading the lines of Thompson. Thank goodness it was him.
Pat Buchanan: It’s rare that I find myself wanting to listen to Buchanan, but he really came off as one of the film’s stars. His honesty and understanding of a man that should have been his enemy was truly enlightening.
Others: Thompson’s wives, his son, Thomas Wolfe, Jimmy Carter and Jimmy Buffet all give great insight into the man.
Talking: I wanted more stories about Thompson and how he worked on his craft. But that’s the journalist in me. Hearing that he would retype The Great Gatsby over and over to learn the craft had me drooling for more.
Sights & Sounds: The funeral for Thompson should have been much longer in the film, I would have loved to have heard the stories that were told from the likes of Depp, Buffet, Bill Murray and all the others that attended. The soundtrack includes Janis Joplin, The Rolling Stones and Bob Dylan, but including “You Sexy Thing” was a mistake. The film’s true failure was the tiny recreations such as a Richard Nixon as a werewolf.
Director Alex Gibney just won an Oscar for the documentary Taxi to the Dark Side, it’s one of the few films I haven’t seen from 2007. I have to imagine it’s a little more organized. True, nothing about Hunter S. Thompson’s life was coherent, except for the best of his writing. But this film relies a little too much on other movies and documentaries for footage, whether it’s the numerous clips of Fear and Loathing or When We Were Kings. I wanted more unearthed footage. But if you are looking for a tribute to the man, you won’t find anything better. And now I have to finally get around to reading Hell’s Angels.
Score: 6 out of 10