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

film_hunter-sm.jpgI always wanted to be a writer, but Thompson, in part, made me want to be a journalist.

 

 

 

 

 

(Magnolia Pictures, R) Though often misunderstood and certainly more unconventional than most of his contemporaries, Dr. Hunter S. Thompson was perhaps the most influential and original American journalist of the last century, as well as a central figure in the counterculture that grew out of 1960s San Francisco. When he took his own life in 2005 at the age of 67, he left behind an incredible legacy including more than a dozen books and countless articles in some of the country’s most respected publications including Rolling Stone, Esquire, National Observer, The Nation, San Francisco Examiner and ESPN Page 2. Thompson is known for inventing "Gonzo Journalism," a style of journalistic writing that often includes the reporter as part of the story via a first person narrative, blurring the lines between fact and fiction.

In his new documentary, Gonzo: The Life and Work of Dr. Hunter S. Thompson, director Alex Gibney takes a personal look at the man and legend through the eyes of those who knew him best. Amid readings from Thompson’s works by actor Johnny Depp (who portrayed him in the film version of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and was a close personal friend), Gibney shares in-depth interviews and anecdotes from those closest to Thompson, including first wife and mother of his child Sondi Wright, his grown son Juan, second wife Anita Thompson, Rolling Stone editor Jann Wenner, illustrator partner Ralph Steadman and even George McGovern, the presidential candidate he covered extensively (and supported personally) for his groundbreaking political memoir, Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail of ’72.

Gibney’s documentary is a welcome and insightful diversion for Thompson’s many fans and admirers who have longed for a hit of Hunter since his passing. I always wanted to be a writer, but Thompson, in part, made me want to be a journalist. The first time I read Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, I read it three times straight through. I enjoyed the film’s level of detail about both Thompson’s groundbreaking work as well as his personal life—which included two marriages, fatherhood, a run for Sheriff of Aspen, Colo., a love of guns and, ultimately, a tormented soul.

The footage from the 1972 Presidential Campaign and interviews with George McGovern and others provide a fascinating glimpse into a very important time in our nation’s history during which Thompson lived on the front lines. Possibly my favorite moments in the film were the bittersweet memories of Jann Wenner, who speaks about playing editor to the brilliant and unpredictable genius of Thompson throughout their more than 35-year relationship. He laughs easily at these memories; then when asked the question, "What do you miss about Hunter?" Wenner breaks down. "Everything," he says, with tear-filled eyes, and walks away from the camera. | Amy Burger

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