Mostly, I just loathed it.
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas was released in 1998, directed by Terry Gilliam, and starred Johnny Depp and Benicio del Toro. It was an adaptation of the 1971 Hunter S. Thompson novel of the same name. The movie follows journalist Raoul Duke (Depp) and his alleged attorney Dr. Gonzo (del Toro) as they travel to Las Vegas to cover a news story. They get side tracked along the way in a multi-drug induced haze for the entire movie. That’s basically all that I experienced from the movie. It is just scene to scene of this happened causing this to happen which causes this next thing to happen. All of which are completely driven by their drug-use and inability to comprehend reality. Their reality was based on whatever effects that particular drug they happened to take. It varied from seeing ghost bats and dinosaurs in a casino lobby to wanting to cut people and throw the radio in the tub so they could hear it better. To any observer, it was nonsense. As I watched this movie, that is all I ever was; an observer. I didn’t get invested in their actions or motivations. I didn’t find enjoyment out of watching them. I just observed. Oh yea, I also loathed. Mostly, I just loathed it.
After watching the movie, I found out that it was based on a novel by Hunter S. Thompson. This made me interested in the book. I read about the book and some reviews of it. The reviews of the book recognized it as a “chase [of] the American Dream…while ruminating on the failure of the 1960s countercultural movement.” The English teacher side of me became interested. I wanted to read that story. I still want to read it. Then the movie reviewer side of me wondered, “Where the heck was all of that in the movie?” The slightest indication that I could reflect on was Johnny Depp’s well-done narration throughout the movie. That is what tied this ball of loose meat together. The problem was the string was too thin. The meat just fell out in clumps. The story broke down. Another drug-filled movie is Requiem for a Dream. I did not find that movie enjoyable to watch either, but if anyone does claim “enjoyment” from viewing that movie, he or she needs his or her head examined. The difference is that Requiem was not enjoyable on purpose. Fear and Loathing was not enjoyable because of its lack of purpose. If only there was more focus on the narration and motivation of the characters, aside from their next-fix mentality.
The problem that I had with Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas was its top-billed star, drugs. The drugs were the focus of the movie. The drugs prevailed. The characters made it through everything not in lieu of, but because of their drug-use. This appears to be the opposite of what Thompson intended. The narration of the film talked about how the drug culture got it wrong, but there was just not enough focus in the film. The action of the characters were probably supposed to differ with the narration to illustrate the point, but without proper explanation, the meaning is lost. I understand what the filmmakers were going for. It seems to follow the book almost to the teeth with the event and nods to the symbols and images described in the book. I respect that. I did like Johnny Depp’s quick tongue and unusual gestures (a staple of Depp now) which matched up with the character he was going for. Do I think it achieved anything more than a tripped-out trip to Las Vegas? Not really. Did it make me interested in reading the book? Actually, no (reading the reviews did that). Well can I say that I enjoyed watching the movie? I liked it just about as much as Tobey Maguire’s character (who, by the way, jumped out of a moving vehicle five minutes into the movie to get away from those guys).
Rating: 1 out of 5 Beards