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

Gonzo: The Life and Work of Dr. Hunter S. Thompson (2008) — This is another documentary from Alex Gibney (Client 9: The Rise and Fall of Eliot Spitzer). While that other film was good about showing both sides of the story, the interviews in Gonzo all pretty much reach the same conclusion: Dr. Hunter S. Thompson was a phenomenal writer who led an amazing life. This is because there are NOT two sides to this story. Dr. Hunter S Thompson was a phenomenal writer who led an amazing life. The film covers his life from his first major work (Hell’s Angels) to his eventual suicide in 2005. Passages of his work are read by his friend Johnny Depp, who famously played Thompson’s alias Raoul Duke in Terry Gilliam’s film version of Thompson’s most famous work Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (several clips of which are shown. Also featured are clips from Where the Buffalo Roam where Bill Murray played Thompson). The film interviews his collaborators (such as Rolling Stone editor Jann Wenner and illustrator Ralph Steadman), his contemporaries (Tom Wolfe), his ex-wife, widow, & son, and the people he wrote about (famed Hell’s Angel Sonny Barger, 1972 democratic Presidential Candidate George McGovern, former Nixon aide Pat Buchanan, Former President Jimmy Carter. All have glowing things to say about the good doctor, while never shying away from the man’s demons. You don’t like on a constant diet of alcohol and drugs without having a pretty serious dark side. It’s also amazing the history he lived through. He was embedded in the Hell’s Angels for over a year. He partied with Ken Kessey’s Merry Pranksters. He was at the 1968 Democratic National Convention and witnessed the police brutality and ensuing riot. He followed candidates on the campaign trail in 1972 (for his second most famous Fear and Loathing book) feeling that “nothing was off the record.” Being unknown people didn’t know what to expect of him and since he had no career ambition toward political journalism he was not afraid to burn bridges by printing EVERYTHING (and also making shit up, being very surprised when people took it seriously). His decline came with his celebrity and it seemed as though he was almost trying to live up to the almost cartoon-like “Raoul Duke” antics that he had written about. The man has helped shape our culture and leaves behind an amazing legacy.

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