Breakfast with Hunter

Depending on one's knowledge of legendary journalist Hunter S. Thompson, Breakfast with Hunter is either a great movie or a baffling one. For those who have no idea who Thompson is, this movie is a waste of time Numerous celebrities trip over themselves to give fawning tributes to this really weird old guy that cusses, smokes, and drinks a lot. What is all the fuss about? The assumption of an intimate knowledge of Thompson is the largest weakness in Wayne Ewing's documentary. Ewing provides no context whatsoever as to why Thompson is so beloved, or why people allow him to do these outrageous things. For all intents and purposes, Thompson seems like a gruff, annoying old man.

This does not do justice to Thompson, who single-handedly invented gonzo journalism and inspired generation of writers. He does deserve all the praise heaped on him during various points in the film. Breakfast with Hunter works best if one has a working knowledge, and better, a great admiration for Thompson. In this light, the documentary is an unfettered glimpse into the mind of a mad genius. It looks like Ewing has total access, and Thompson allows the camera to follow him everywhere and catch everything. There is no real narrative plot to follow, Ewing just follows Thompson around and highlights some of the events that happened in the mid 90s. The reason he was able to get such intimate footage is that he is Thompson's neighbor.

The most interesting is the development of the film adaptation of Thompson's most famous novel, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. He has a memorable spat with then director Alex Cox (Herod's Law, Three Businessmen), who at that point was the director. Once Cox mentioned he was thinking of using cartoons for some of the sequences, Thompson exploded. He was not willing to reason or even listen, and Cox and his associate left. He was eventually kicked off the film and replaced by Terry Gilliam (Twelve Monkeys, The Fisher King), and it's hard to imagine the film without Gilliam helming. Later, he had to convince star Johnny Depp (who does a masterful impression of Thompson in final film) to push back the start date of production, and Depp (Secret Window, Once Upon a Time in Mexico) agreed as long as Thompson would teach his bird how to speak. This leads to Thompson chasing and later holding a small bird in his hand while verbally berating it. Basically, pure Thompson.

Other highlights include the Rolling Stone 25th anniversary celebration of the publication of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, where Thompson takes an errant fire extinguisher to Jan Wenner's office, and brief glimpses into his run for sheriff and a trumped out DUI charge. Throughout it all, Thompson acts strangely, doing whatever he wants, whenever he wants to. One may think he is acting like this for the camera, but this is how he actually is. It obviously amuses Depp, John Cusack (Runaway Jury, Identity), Benicio Del Toro (21 Grams, The Hunted), and the legion of other famous actors and writers that gush over him. Breakfast with Hunter is amusing to watch, but at various points one wonders what the point is.

Mongoose Rates It: Okay.
1 hour, 32 minutes, Not Rated but contains language and drug use, most likely an R.

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