Breakfast with Hunter
- Wayne Ewing
- Reviewed by
- Gon Curiel a.k.a. Groucho
- Review date
- Thursday, July 15, 2004
To the uninitiated, this review, like the documentary itself, should give some background. Hunter S. Thompson is the notorious “Dr. Gonzo”, creator of the “Gonzo Journalism”, most famous for his work in the Rolling Stone magazine, which benefited from his abuse of certain substances. Forever judged and hunted by conservatives, Thompson always seemed to defy any and all conventionalisms and gained importance for being different. As a middle-aged man with just the same kind of attitude he might seem out of place or immature or plain stupid, but he’s still got what it takes to change anyone’s mind.
Breakfast with Hunter soon establishes itself as a pleasant journey throughout Thompson’s career, from his failed attempt to become the Pitkin County sheriff to his struggle to adapt Vegas to the screen and do it right. Despite any opinion about Hunter, there’s no denying that he’s different, and enjoys it, and that’s probably what makes his misadventures fun to watch. On the other hand, Ewing handles the trip as a voyeuristic look at Hunter rather than a documentary per se, so instead of giving us boring interviews, he shows us what it’s like to be with Hunter, and we really get to feel that, and eventually, we just can’t get enough.
And though some might get the impression, as I said, that Hunter’s attitude is out of place by now, the film clearly shows the opposite:
First and slowly it digs into the author’s influence in further generations, both in fragments of his work read with admiration by John Cusack, Johnny Depp, and Roxanne Pulitzer (whose notorious divorce trial was discussed at the time by Hunter), and in a celebration of the 25th Anniversary of the publication of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. It almost seems ironic (and Hunter does comment on it, verbally and physically, with a fire extinguisher) that the Rolling Stone Magazine’s office is now modern and luxurious, much against its own original idiosyncrasy. Hunter S. Thompson has always attacked hypocrisy, and has always done so in extravagant ways.
And second, it simply shows that Hunter is far from stupid. Yes, he’s always carrying a bottle of Chivas Regal (and drinking it even while driving), and he does seem absent-minded and childish, but he’s always at the top of his game, always conscious of the situation, and always certain of what he wants and what he’ll get no matter what. Though the film is in ways intense from the get-go, it truly comes to life and becomes a unique piece thanks to a priceless scene where Hunter is visited in his reclusive Owl Farm ranch by director Alex Cox and his co-screenwriter Todd Davies to discuss the script of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.
Though Cox was at the helm of the project back then, Thompson quickly disagrees with his idea to mix animation with live action on the film, in an attempt to metaphorically interpret one of the author’s statements; Cox and Davies assume that Hunter can be talked into the idea, and give him little credit since he hasn’t even read the script. Wrong. Hunter gives them hell and tirelessly tries to make his point, and soon the team runs away from Owl Farm and the project. The filmmakers’ argument was that Thompson’s work was so appropriately illustrated by Ralph Steadman (whose presence in the film and earnest friendship with Thompson are the most refreshing elements of it, by the way), so why not do that onscreen with animation; Thompson argues that it’s not the same thing and he’s right: Illustrations and moving pictures are just not the same thing, especially when the use of words was so important and now can’t be used the same way; instead, living caricatures like those Cox and Davies make of themselves are exactly what should be done. And in that way, Ewing scores big time.
So in the end, Breakfast with Hunter is exactly the kind of trip that Dr. Gonzo so masterfully portrays in his writing: A complex observation of life that’s still lighthearted, an immature attack to conservatism and hypocrisy that’s as serious as can be, and a collection of anecdotes that seem pointless but add up to something vibrant and unforgettable. I was fascinated by the film and strongly recommend it, though “recommend” is too weak a word for anyone with at least a little admiration for Dr. Hunter S. Thompson; for those it’s a must-see.
Click here to go to the official site.
Click here to order the DVD.
Gon C Curiel en Twitter | CriticSociety en Twitter | CriticSociety en Facebook
Share on Facebook | Share on Twitter