SIFF: Gonzo


I had the good fortune of catching Gonzo: The Life and Work of Hunter Thompson last night at the Egyptian as part of SIFF. Being a lifelong fan of the Good Doctor, I had high expectations; especially since I’ve seen pretty much every documentary or biopic related to him. I also couldn’t help but have relatively high standards going in when I heard Gonzo was directed by Alex Gibney, the same guy behind the impressive Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room.

And I was not let down.

For 122 minutes, Gibney treats Hunter’s life with respect and playful admiration, but also isn’t afraid to stay objective in the process. He interviews everyone from Hunter’s first wife to his last editor at “Rolling Stone,” and the viewer truly gets a taste of what each of them thought of the man – both regarding the way he lived his life and the way he ended it.

What struck me the most about the movie was the rare (and previously unseen) footage that Gibney was able to get his hands on. We’re shown home movies shot by Anita, Hunter’s second wife, a few incredibly rare shots of Oscar Zeta Acosta (Hunter’s lawyer and the character played by Benicio Del Toro in the “Fear & Loathing” movie), and the actual tape conversation between Hunter and Oscar that ended up at the very end of the book of the same name. For whatever reason, Terry Gilliam left it out of the movie, but it doesn’t matter anymore – the discourse is pure gold for gonzo freaks such as myself.

The rest of the film paints an equally vivid picture of who this crazy bastard Hunter Thompson really was; further beyond what many other portrayals of him have shown. The crowd laughed heartily every time we were treated to Hunter’s trademark frantic howling gibberish and stop-start rhetoric. This was even more hilarious when retold and at times re-enacted by his friends, including 1972 presidential candidate George McGovern, Jimmy Buffett and longtime artist Ralph Steadman. I caught myself smiling fondly more than once – almost as if I was remembering an old friend myself.

And even though I did have the good fortune of meeting and briefly conversing with Hunter one time in Los Angeles during a book signing about four years ago, he’s always been a huge inspiration for me. And when a biopic like this is done so well that it makes you feel like you’ve just watched something about one of your own friends, it deserves high marks. Gonzo is sure to rank in the top echelon of SIFF films in 2008.

2 Comments so far

  1. wesa on May 27th, 2008 @ 8:05 pm

    Sounds like a fitting eulogy to a great man.

  2. Mike (drgonzo) on May 28th, 2008 @ 10:13 am

    it really was :)

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