Issue date: 4/23/09
Gonzo. Remind you of one your favorite Muppet characters? Well, this
Gonzo likes to order three margaritas and six beers for his dinner,
pops LSD like skittles and hunts wild boars with a sub-machine gun.
Gonzo: The Life and Work of Hunter S. Thompson tells the story of a
mesmerizing psychotic journalist who turned heads from the late '60s
to the mid-'70s. Director Alex Gibney (Taxi to the Dark Side) does an
excellent job probing deep into Thompson's own persona of himself. A
general feeling of most documentaries would be unexciting and slowly
culminating, but Gonzo does not fit this build. From the opening
scenes, the sharp and quick editing style and the glorified '60s
soundtrack feed the picture. The picture paints a not-so-pretty
picture of Thompson's triumphs and his failures, and the experience
of it all is not half bad either.
Thompson created the Gonzo lifestyle. For those who don't know this
term, it describes a subjective writing technique which tends to
favor style over accuracy, and is written in the first person point
of view. The picture speaks of Thompson's voice and how it propelled
him to stardom, along with his erratic behavior and heavy drug use.
The film includes interviews with both of his wives, Jimmy Buffet,
Jimmy Carter and George McGovern. McGovern is said to have been
Thompson's favorite politician, and one could understand why, hearing
his quote on the subject of politicians:
"I'm sick of old men sitting around in air conditioned rooms here in
Washington dreaming up wars for young men to die in," said the 1972
Democratic candidate for president.
Thompson is illustrated as a romantic, a family man and a patriot.
But fast forwarding the picture 15 minutes, you will see the
illustration of Thompson change to an angry, ill-tempered,
self-centered erratic, and the list goes on. Lending a hand to the
picture is Johnny Depp. He contributes by reading several passages
from Thompson's work, illuminating the Kentucky-born writer's gifts.
It seemed that Thompson was at war with himself by the time of his
death by suicide in 2005 at the age of 67. Some have said it was a
brave thing to do, to go out on top. But in reality Thompson wasn't
anywhere near the top of the game when he exited. His son, Juan,
speaks of his taking his own life as a "warm family moment." Juan
goes on to say "I was in the other room when it happened. And when it
happened, I thought I heard a book drop." Throughout Thompson's
lifetime he had always commented on committing suicide, so it was no
surprise to anyone when he actually did it. The book dropping perhaps
symbolizes the end of a literary era. A great writer is gone.
Gonzo is an eye-opening experience that delves deep into art,
political history and human nature. The 2008 film can now be found on DVD.