Movie and Film Reviews (MFR) Uncategorized Gonzo: The Life and Work of Dr. Hunter S. Thompson (2008)

Gonzo: The Life and Work of Dr. Hunter S. Thompson (2008)

Although director/writer Alex Gibney seemingly had his hands full making this extensive biographical review of the late Dr. Hunter Thompson, much of the brilliant avant-garde journalist’s story had already been told by himself, replete with film footage, tape recordings and a mass of photos that filled in nicely what might otherwise have been less revealed. For Hunter Thompson’s life, like the garish memorial and its ceremonial dedication he had planned in detail, was in prescient acknowledgment of the fate that awaited at his own hands and the difficulty any biographer might have in capturing the “essence” of a man incredibly undefined by common standards.

The viewer is treated with the stretching breadth of those touched by Thompson’s life, George McGovern, Pat Buchanan, President Jimmy Carter, Rolling Stone’s Jann Wenner (who dedicated a moving epitaph to the man found in the March 10, 2005 issue,) Jimmy Buffet, Tom Wolfe, the artist Ralph Steadman (who with Thompson integrated into a cult figure himself,) Gary Hart, the narrator Johnny Depp, to name but a few. Such impressions as Thompson made carry weight beyond the usual patching of one recollection with others, beyond the usual reportorial outlay journalists other than Thompson conceived. And this is what the justice-serving Gibney works to accomplish in this wonderful movie.

To seek the truth and the clarity only the unadulterated truth affords, Hunter Thompson discovered early on what good novelists had shown him, that truth had to be portrayed…not just in observing but in living. He rode with the Hell’s Angels to discover them; he pushed to excess indulgence in order to display that drugs and alcohol were not the true culprits of American decline; he expressed himself a freak (even while running for office as the sheriff of Alpine, Colorado) to demonstrate a true heritage of the sixties was not lost. While others might disagree, the most remarkable observation about this man to this reviewer was his selfless use of the spotlight for causes not self-serving.

When President Jimmy Carter (still thought of as a rube by mainstream journalists and social sophisticates) gave his scathing talk before an assembly of attorneys, Thompson was the first to recognize the unique value of such a public figure with a clear moral core. His support of McGovern, against the odds, was won of the same values. Morally, when and where it counted, he could always be counted (on.) Revisited is the young Thompson’s intense interest in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s work and his seeming fixation to spend long periods typing the novelist’s work, presumably to help capture what of Fitzgerald’s style is found so compelling for his own work. But perhaps it was more, perhaps it had something to do with the author’s ability to bare the truth without censor. For this became the very “Gonzo” trademark, the one that lasted Thompson and served him well.

More accomplished men have made their mark and passed, but not into oblivion. Yet none have made their mark when it was needed more. But judge for yourself. Begin by seeing this movie.

Anyone mature enough to see beyond the rattle of society’s cage is qualified to see this movie.

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