Review: Breakfast with Hunter (2003)

>> Sunday, January 13, 2008

USA/C-91m./Dir: Wayne Ewing/Cast: Hunter S. Thompson (Himself), Johnny Depp (Himself), Ralph Steadman (Himself), John Cusack (Himself), Benicio Del Toro (Himself), Warren Zevon (Himself)

During the last two decades of Hunter S. Thompson’s life, Wayne Ewing spent substantial time on the road with the cultural icon, documenting his movements and accumulating hundreds of hours of footage. From this wealth of material he created Breakfast with Hunter, a loosely structured documentary following Thompson’s attempts to fight a bogus drunk driving charge while simultaneously consulting the cast and producers of the movie version of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1998). The film is presented in a cinema vérité style with only a handful of onscreen captions to provide background information. While this makes Breakfast with Hunter a difficult jumping-on point for those unfamiliar with the outlaw journalist and his work, for fans of Dr. Gonzo, Breakfast with Hunter is a virtual feast.

Thompson’s admirers will love hearing Hunter and his frequent artistic collaborator, Ralph Steadman, discuss getting shitfaced during their first assignment as a team, “The Kentucky Derby is Decadent and Depraved.” They will also likely recognize figures from the pages of Hunter’s gonzo prose ranging from Roxanne Pulitzer to presidential candidate George McGovern. However, I don’t want to give the impression that the film is just made up of “remember when” nostalgia. Vintage footage of Hunter during his campaign for sheriff of Pitkin County, Colorado displays the writer full of youthful vigor, while scenes of Thompson fighting his fraudulent DUI and arguing over the script of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas demonstrate that the man was still full of fire in his later years.

Of course, the film also contains plenty for soused cinema fanatics to enjoy. Hunter rarely traveled without a bottle (or at least a full glass), so much of his filmed comments are braced by liquid stimulants. In Ewing’s film, we see Dr. Gonzo sampling fine Scotch, piloting his car while sipping, playing toss and catch with whiskey bottles, and walking the halls of Rolling Stone and the streets of Washington D.C. with a glass in hand.

For fans of the late, great Hunter S. Thompson, Breakfast with Hunter is essential viewing. The structure of the film may be a bit haphazard and the narrative may be prone to straying off course, but that is perfectly appropriate because Hunter’s writings were equally free flowing. Wayne Ewing’s film is a fitting tribute to the man who fought the greed-heads, rubes, power-hungry bastards, Richard Nixon, and other manner of predatory swine with good humor and a strong beverage at the ready.

Drinks Consumed--Tequila, bourbon, Scotch, beer, and wine

Intoxicating Effects--Bickering and drinking & driving

Potent Quotables--JOURNALIST ROBERT CHALMERS (inquiring about the article “The Kentucky Derby is Decadent and Depraved”): In what condition were you in at the end of that job?
RALPH STEADMAN: I was totally finished, wrecked, without rhyme or reason.
THOMPSON: You were gassed.

Video Availability--The DVD of Breakfast with Hunter and Wayne Ewing’s other HST documentaries can only be purchased directly from the director’s Website, Hunter Thompson Films (http://www.hunterthompsonfilms.com/)

Similarly Sauced Cinema--Wayne Ewing has further explored the gonzo world of Hunter S. Thompson in his follow-up films When I Die (2005) and Free Lisle: Fear and Loathing in Denver (2006).

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I like to drink. I like to watch movies. I like to watch movies about drinking. I like to write about the movies I’ve watched, but only if I’ve had a drink first.

All text including the title "Booze Movies: The 100 Proof Film Guide" Copyright William T. Garver

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