Political Film Society - Gonzo: The Life and Work of Dr. Hunter S. Thompson


PFS Film Review
Gonzo: The Life and Work of Dr. Hunter S. Thompso


 

Gonzo: The Life and Work of Dr. Hunter S. ThompsoLongtime fascinating journalist for Rolling Stone, Thompson ended his life in 2005 at the age of 67. His earliest formative experience is his imprisonment after a wild pre-graduation party in Louisville while parents of rich kid friends got them released from custody. In San Francisco during the 1960s, he joins the drug culture but later excoriates the anomic hippies and then becomes a participant journalist in a book-length exposé of the Hell’s Angels that brings instant fame. Assigned to cover the 1968 Democratic convention, he sours on both Hubert Humphrey and Edmund Muskie as sellouts to the establishment for condoning the savage beatings of peaceful demonstrators in Chicago. His heroes were Robert Kennedy, George McGovern, Jimmy Carter, and Muhammed Ali, whose straight-talking honesty is reviled by what he considers the cynical press. In a brief segment, he runs for mayor of the county around Aspen as a reform candidate, shocking residents with such bold ideas as stopping greedy developers and legalizing drugs. When assigned to “search for the American dream,” he heads for Las Vegas and again achieves literary notoriety with Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas in 1971, which he believes signaled the end of the 60s as well as the demise of the American dream. Whereas the film focuses on his wild personality, which alternates between pensive brilliance and cruel viciousness, the beginning sets the premise that Bush’s declaration of national emergency serves to depress Thompson, but that thought is frustratingly never developed later in the two-hour story of his life. Although a celebrity due to his eloquence, filmviewers are sadly deprived of most epigrams and witticisms that caused such adulation. His fame evidently sapped the creativity of a hungry writer, and he just saw no future for himself. Directed by Alex Gibney with narration from his writing by Johnny Depp, the documentary features film footage of Thompson along with interviews of his two wives and son as well as of laudatory admirers from Pat Buchanan to Buchanan, Carter, McGovern, and more than a dozen more. MH

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