Classic Rock Sneelock wrote:Matt Wilson wrote:
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas
I've always enjoyed it, and though I think it misses the nuances (the political overtones, for one) of the book, I don't think we're going to ever get a better filmic adaptation of a Hunter Thompson novel. I met both Thompson and Depp when I went to Book Soup on Sunset Blvd in 1998 to get Thompson's signature on a book of his letters. Hunter was a giant, over six foot, while 'lil Johnny couldn't have been more than 5'6", maybe 130 lbs. Only in Hollywood would they think to get Johnny Depp to play Hunter Thompson... Alex Cox was originally going to do the picture so when Gilliam came onboard he was basically a director for hire.
I actively dislike the movie. I know it's much loved and I've tried making my peace with it but I think they missed by a mile. My problem is essentially one of tone. Things that strike me as hilarious in the book strike me as mean spirited in the movie. I like Gilliam's psychedelic touches visually but I think, overall that it's pretty much a travesty of one of my most beloved books.
I think it's too bad that Alex Cox & HST didn't hit it off. I think Cox's ideas about structuring the thing more straightforward and consolidating things would have made for a more engaging film. Still, you never know about tone. That's a genie in a bottle and hard to get on the page.
Cox has gone on record saying that he thinks he was only attached to the project in order to secure financing. He seems to think everybody was in it to score some big bucks. (Like with Barfly). He seems to feel that his "indie" approach was only really of value to the producers as a bargaining tool and that it wasn't really in anyone's interest to do something modestly budgeted.
Well, if you don't want a modest budget then Gilliam is your guy!
I know a lot of people thought Cox was being a primadonna. Maybe he was. I'm a Gilliam fan but I don't think he understood what was marvelous about the book. The draft of Cox's screenplay on his website makes me think that maybe Cox did. Gilliam said he thought Cox's script was shit and bragged that he banged his script out in 8 or 10 days. The writer's guild didn't agree and Gilliam Insisted the Cox script wasn't used at all. When the Cox script was given co-writing credits, Gilliam had a pissing match with the Writer's Guild so intense that he publicly resigned from the Guild..
The movie may have been a bomb but it's certainly well on the road to "cult classic" at this point.
I'd like to say some thing flattering about Gilliam's style. According to Cox - the mere mention of Ralph Steadman's name would throw HST into a rage. I thought Gilliam did a wonderful job of giving the movie a visual style anyway. Certainly it refers to Steadman's style but I guess they might have been trying not to over rely on it. This aspect of the film and Depp's performance ARE very accomplished. Even I can see that. I still spit on it.
I disliked it intensely on release, it being one of my favorite books, as just a sort of Dean-Martin-and-his-buddy-except-with-acid-instead-of-booze thing, leaving out the political angle and of course the wonderful writing. I've softened up on a (semi-)recent re-viewing, but it still rankles, only not as much.
There's deeper point to the book than drugged-out weirdos wreaking havoc and tweaking the nose of pomposity, but it seems to have been lost in the mix.
Meanwhile, I'm watching the Batman TV show with my six year-old, so I can't complain about anything. Shelly Winters is giving 'em hell as Ma Parker!
Clementine: Oh no, dad, I can't look!
Me: Don't worry, Clementine, they always get out of the trap they're in.
Clementine (sincerely): But dad, what if this time they don't?
(I laugh, but I'm actually crying for her all-too-soon-to-be-lost naivete.)
Wait, what was the question?