Don't judge a taco by its price

You know how everyone has a book that they read at a young age which finally made them think “Hey, reading doesn’t actually suck after all!”? Well, for me, that book was ‘Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas’. I may have only been thirteen years old, and I may not have known what half the words meant (I’m looking at you, “mescaline”), but I still was swept away in the adrenaline, the intoxication and the sheer madness of it all. From there, I graduated to ‘Hell’s Angels’ and other various essays. I still love reading Hunter S. Thompson, and like John Peel or Tony Wilson, I was genuinely sad when I heard of his death.

Anyway, last night I went to see ‘Gonzo: The Life and Work of Dr. Hunter S. Thompson,’ a new documentary from Alex Gibney, whose previous work ‘Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room’ and Oscar winner ‘Taxi to the Dark Side’, I had enjoyed considerably. And when I say “enjoyed considerably”, I mean “enjoyed as much as you can when the subject matters are white collar crime and wartime torture, respectively.” The roll-call of contributors to ‘Gonzo’ was pretty heavyweight: a former president, a former presidential candidate, a former president’s speech writer, both Thompson’s wives, his son, his editor at Rolling Stone, his illustrator, a fellow acclaimed author, and the guy that played him in the movie. You know, that guy from ‘Secret Window’.

I thought the presentation of the film was a little muddled, which though confusing, was in line with the Doctor’s writing, so it was appropriate. What I mean is, the story was told using archival footage, the aforementioned interviews, clips from Wayne Ewing’s films, and Johnny Depp’s readings of the great man’s works. It comes off as a little incoherent, which was probably the intention. Also, at two hours it felt rather long.

But enough gripes! It was still fun. As in, a trunk-full of drugs fun. Seeing his failed run for Sheriff of Aspen (if he’d have won, he’d have been Sheriff of Fat City) is hilarious. Watching the glee-filled vitriol with which he attacks Nixon and Muskie is great. The reverence he has for Carter is sweet. All the Hell’s Angels stuff. The Kentucky Derby. He used to type ‘The Great Gatsby’ in its entirety, over and over again, just to get more accustomed to the rhythm and mechanism of typing.

He may not have been a great guy, what with the drinking, the drugs, the infidelity, the guns, the temper, the inability to ever make a deadline – all of which are documented here. And yet, he was probably the first writer to be a celebrity as we understand it now. He was on Letterman. He was more popular than some of the politicians he was covering. He created a new style of writing. More than anything else: His best stories are far more interesting than any of my best stories. And for putting many of those good stories together, ‘Gonzo’ is well worth checking out.

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