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Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas

At one point during the incoherent mess that is Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas Michael Jeter, in what I assume is meant to be a mocking portrayal of orthodoxy, enumerates a taxonomy of being "with it" in a cannabis society. If this adaptation of Hunter S. Thompson's book (which I've never read, so which probably immediately took me out of the target audience of the film) is supposed to epitomise counterculture "cool" then I'm so far into "square" territory (leaping over "groovy" and "hip" in a single bound) that not even the entire contents of Raoul Duke's briefcase, inserted orally, veinally or rectally, would have moved me into a higher state of being.

I don't want to turn all Orson Scott Card and judge films according to their alignment to my own value system, but certainly finding a fictional (or in this case, semi-fictional) character sympathetic will help me like a movie more. Heck, even understanding his mindset would be a start. I don't have a problem with recreational drug-use per se, but I'm afraid I just don't grok Thompson, Duke or Doctor Gonzo. (I had the same problem with The Big Lebowski - not a single relatable character in the entire story.)

Or for that matter, simply understanding the words people are saying would be a beginning. But Johnny Depp substituted incomprehensible mumblings, over the top gesticulations and weird noises for acting. (Benicio Del Toro did too... though not so much with the mumbles.) It's not as if these guys can't act - obviously they can. It's not even as if Depp can't ham it up effectively - as his turn in Pirates of the Caribbean demonstrated. But here 95% of their performance reeked of overindulgence. Benicio Del Toro incidentally, strangely looks more like Johnny Depp than Johnny Depp, when he isn't looking like Edward James Olmos.

Terry Gilliam is as visually inventive as ever, but that's all he is. He didn't suck me into the world or the mood of the film. (Contrast this to David Lynch's Eraserhead which is at the top of my list of successful WTF! pictures, or Oliver Stone's Natural Born Killers.)

Okay, good points:

  • Some nice FX sequences.
  • The cameos. (There are many but watch for Toby Maguire who is unrecognisable and Ellen Barkin who is in the only good scene in the movie.)
  • Good songs.
  • Every so often, an eloquent passage of narration.
  • The Criterion Collection DVD presentation which is possibly the best they've ever done - three commentaries, a disc full of extras, an informative booklet and a very cool packaging concept. It's almost certain I'll enjoy the special features much more than the film itself. When I can be bothered to go through them.
I won't discuss the plot - for one, there isn't one. For another, I don't think it's the sort of movie that should be judged by the story. It's about the experience. But if gonzo journalism is all about conveying the subjective experience, putting you in the scene, then this film fails. While this review may seem harsh, it certainly isn't motivated by dislike of the film. It induced neither fear nor loathing. I remained detached throughout. I even nodded off for a few minutes a couple of times. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas tried very hard to be loud and brash and look-at-me, but only succeeded in being boring.

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Comments (7)

Sandor:

A square like you shouldnt be allowed to post his oppinions of what he doesnt understand, this movie in no way should ever be undermined, even if it means that you eat some acid before watching it, by the way the line was, We had 2 bags of grass, 75 pellets of mescalin, 5 sheets of high power blotter acid, a salt shaker half full of cocain, a whole galaxy of uppers, downers, screamers, laughers, also a quart of tequilla, quart of rum, case of beer, and a pint of raw ether. are you kool now? get your own damn briefcase and stop ruining this peice of art's reputation.

badwolf:

Oh boy did you miss out by not understanding the movie.

Perhaps you do need to read the book, but to me, it's all explained by the late mr Thompsons own account of this tale.

It is a definite aquired taste, I think. but one I fully dig.

snowman:

this movie was not created to tell a story or anything even close to that. by the end of this movie it had me wondering was what was happening in the suposed "reality" actualy happening or was that also driven askew by the multiple drugs they abused which is exactly what Hunter S. thompson wanted not to be a anarchist and do drugs but to question is this reality what im really seeing or is there something underneath it something that is being coverd by the lies created by the media and government the only benafit of it was he got to have some great trips. i say this because like every other person from the 60's and 70's they wanted the truth the pure truth no mater how ugly it maybe


oh and if you understood what i was trying to say tell me cause i sure as hell dont ive gone 40 hours and 30 min without sleep and im currently on a slight drug binge my self with a number of uppers so my synapsis are fireing but they arnt prossessing too well

Joshua:

You would have had to experience it all..the time this book was written.It WAS about that point in time...you realize,that all the love and peace,freeing of the mind...was really just a fools dream.It was all a dream,a horrible one for some.Some never woke up from it..

Not I,no sir..for me...it was a time of retrospect..no,fear and loathing.

Josh:

Well,in order to really be able to get the movie you have to have read the book. The book has alot more detail than the movie, and since the plot is based around their drug habits,experiments with ether, and other random things, the movie is like one big acid trip.I thought Johnny Depp did a great job acting as a guy whos hopped up on acid/ether. I'm sure they dont have long dialougs when their high, I'm pretty sure they act just as he did in the movie. Everything goes so fast in the movie that its hard to catch it without reading the book. As far as being able to relate to anything in the movie.....who would be able to relate to a guy who does 10 different types of mind bending drugs in a day? I think its one of those *lets look into the lifestyle* types of movies....Not one your supposed to go in and get a life altering message from.
but anyway....
I watched the movie before reading the book,and I thought it was kind of crazy, and I didnt really find it all that good. But after reading the book, I thought it was a pretty funny/interesting movie.

Andrew:

"But Johnny Depp substituted incomprehensible mumblings, over the top gesticulations and weird noises for acting. (Benicio Del Toro did too... though not so much with the mumbles.) It's not as if these guys can't act - obviously they can. It's not even as if Depp can't ham it up effectively - as his turn in Pirates of the Caribbean demonstrated. But here 95% of their performance reeked of overindulgence."
I understand your asumption, but have you ever heard Hunter S. Thompson speak? Depp fucking nailed that part. He actually stayed at Thompson's house for a time, to get in character. The truth is that depp and del toro did an exelent job! And depp isnt supposed to look like Depp, he was supposed to look like H.S.T., and he does, to a T. Maby you'll understand, if Depp ever does the Rum Diares.

richard:

i agree when i watched the movie sober it kinda blew... but when i watched it fucked up it sucked me right in n at the time i thought it was the best movie ive ever seen..!

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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on April 24, 2005 8:09 PM.

The previous post in this blog was The Final Cut.

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