Thursday, September 17, 2009

#469: Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1998)

Director: Terry Gilliam
Cast: Johnny Depp & Benecio Del Toro

Sports journalist Raoul Duke and his lawyer Dr. Gonzo are on a trip. Pun intended. They’re on a business trip, heading to Las Vegas for the Mint 400, while they are completely wasted on hallucinogens. That’s really all you need to know about this film’s plot.

Johnny Depp’s performance as Duke is remarkably similar to his performance as Captain Jack Sparrow, sans dreads and a boat. Comparing the two, I prefer this much more. His movements are nearly identical in many scenes, which I think supports my views of him. He peaked in his performances just as he became a superstar, and since then has gone downhill, reusing earlier lesser-known works to keep himself a float. I am honestly interested in hearing other opinions on this. Also, I’m so sick of him pretending to be British. He’s a good actor as an American, too…

Many of the reviews I’ve read on the film mention how the film captures the essence of the drug-inducing society of the 1970’s, and how they came to be. Starting with a sequence of footage from Vietnam and protestors against Nixon’s warmongering, as well as a sequence from the 60’s, it shows that the hopeful youth of the previous decade has disappeared. Once the mid-70s hit, it was all about escapism.

I’m not so sure that the film hit home on this front. I think that the film did a great job of visualizing the highs and lows of a crazy drug trip in Vegas, but that’s just about it. The film doesn’t have any structure, and understandably so; how could it have structure when filmed as if the audience is partaking in the drugs? The attempt made to reason out the drug craze of the 70’s was lost on me.

I’m hesitant to give this film thumbs at all. I’m pretty much in agreement with Rotten Tomatoes on this one: 48%.

Fun Trivia (Stolen from IMDB):

  • Hunter S. Thompson himself shaved Johnny Depp's head. They were in Thompson's kitchen, Depp refused to look in a mirror, and Thompson wore a miner's hard hat.
  • During the early stages during the initial development hell to get the film made, Jack Nicholson and Marlon Brando were originally considered for the roles of Duke and Gonzo, and Nicholson was attached, but he, and Brando, both grew too old. Afterward, Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi were considered for the duo, but that fell apart when Belushi died. John Malkovich was later considered for the role of Duke, but he too grew too old. At one point John Cusack was almost cast, but then Hunter S. Thompson met Johnny Depp, and was convinced no one else could play him. Cusack had previously directed the play version of "Fear and Loathing", with his brother playing Duke.
  • According to Johnny Depp, the gorilla statue outside the Bazooko Circus, now "lives" in his front yard.
  • According to Terry Gilliam's commentary on the Criterion DVD, in the scene where Raoul and Gonzo raise havoc at the Debbie Reynolds concert, the voice heard in that scene that is supposed to be Reynolds singing actually IS Reynolds. Gilliam is friends with Carrie Fisher, Reynolds' daughter, who spoke to her mother about recording a couple lines for the movie, and Reynolds agreed.
Lastly - Happy 1 Month Anniversary, Blogger!

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