BREAKFAST WITH HUNTER (2004)
Starring Hunter S. Thompson, George Plimpton, Ralph Steadman, P.J. O’Rourke, Jann Wenner, Robert Chalmers, Alex Cox, Roxanne Pulitzer, George McGovern, Johnny Depp, Benecio Del Toro, Matt Dillon, Terry Gilliam, Warren Zevon, George Plimpton and John Cusack.
Written by Wayne Ewing.
Directed by Wayne Ewing.
Distributed by Wayne Ewing Films and Gonzo International. 91 minutes. Not Rated.
Even in his heyday, Dr. Hunter S. Thompson was a bit of a contradiction. A counter-culture journalist who eschewed the counter culture and journalism. A hippie icon who shaved his head and loved guns. A protestor who tried to change things from the inside and from the outside.
This documentary was filmed and directed by Wayne Ewing, a longtime friend of Thompson and a veteran Hollywood behind-the-scenes sort. (His most impressive credit, to my eyes, is that he worked as a cinematographer and director for a while on the best television drama of the 90s, Homicide: Life on the Street.) Thompson has allowed Ewing extraordinary access to his life, seeing the good, the bad and the ugly about this legendary writer.
Some of the most interesting sections of the film deal with Thompson’s dealings with Hollywood to turn out an ultimately fruitless 1998 film version of his masterwork Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas. It was undoubtedly an unfilmable book, and his reactions to the craziness going on around him, in particular a fiery meeting with early directorial candidate Alex Cox (Sid & Nancy) make for fascinating viewing.
There is also some absorbing archival footage of his aborted campaign for sheriff of Aspen, Colorado in the early 70s. His professional and home life are laid bare, and we are shown a series of banquets in which famous people fawn all over him. With the quick cuts and shaky camera work, it sometimes gets to feel like a reality TV show… The Gonzo Life?
However, there is another thing that the film points out about Thompson which I don’t believe was Ewing’s intention. Thompson seems trapped by the powerful myth and reputation for being a wild man he has fostered all these years. It appears that he feels this desperation to do something outrageous all the time. Therefore, when he goes to visit former boss Jann Wenner of Rolling Stone, he feels the need to pick up a fire extinguisher and shoot it into the man’s office. When doing a lecture at the Viper Room on Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood, he drives up in a convertible sports car with hip movie stars Johnny Depp, John Cusack and a blow-up sex doll. As he drunkenly gets out of the car, he throws the doll in front of another car, whose only offense was trying to get around him. If Thompson wasn’t a genius, a lot of people would say he was a bit of an asshole. They probably wouldn’t be completely wrong.
So your reaction to this film will depend on your tolerance for the colorful personality at the center of it. Love him or hate him, Hunter S. Thompson is pretty hard to ignore. (7/04)
Jay S. Jacobs
Copyright ©2004 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: August 21, 2004.