A sports writer detours to Las Vegas while on assignment and struggles to pull his drug riddled brain and body out of the city that seems to always pull him back in.
Gilliam has a flair for the surreal so when he turned his eye toward the gonzo journalist, Hunter S. Thompson, the results were an instant counter/drug culture classic. Although it was popular, I have never been one for straight up drug movies and that’s what this film seemed to be to me from the outside.
I don’t think I was wrong either. I know that there are hosts of people who will tell me that the movie is about more, but those messages simply didn’t take root with me as I watched.
Don’t get me wrong. Gilliam is always a great watch, even when I’m not totally feeling what he is doing. The visuals, as usual, are stunning and creatively explored as only he does and while the plot may not always be coherent, that simply makes the Monty Python Alumnus the perfect choice to direct.
Particularly, it is Gilliam penchant for using elaborate stage and practical effects that makes him perfect for this film. Fly away walls and real lizard costumes brink an extra layer of heightened paranoia and mind bending surrealism.
I really think that the main reason I don’t care for the film is because it is a theme I don’t particularly vibe with. It’s a well made movie and it is obvious why it is a classic. At least that is what I think it was I didn’t like. It’s hard to say because the dialogue of the film is extremely difficult to understand. I fully intend to watch it again with subtitles on. Perhaps if I had been better able to understand the dialogue I would have felt different.
Another reason this movie may have felt flat to me is that Johnny Depp’s (“From Hell”)character is so iconic. As Depp portrays the Hunter S. Thompson stand in Raoul Duke, he gives a performance which has become a bit of a cliche’. The stoner who mumbles his way through interactions, chain smoking whatever is around, and philosophizing even as he can’t tell if what he is seeing is real or not. As such, the character has lost some of the punch I imagine was there for people who saw this film before drugs became a far more common place part of our culture. It certainly seems less interesting to watch him get high for two hours, when there are so many movies which feature similar characters, who, frankly, I like better.
I hope you don’t get me wrong. This is a good movie, but I’m coming from the perspective of someone who has maybe had this movie a bit overhyped. When I sat down to watch it, I thought I was in for the ride of my life, and while it did deliver a ride, it wan’t the transcendent experience I thought it would be. It was just a good ride.
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