It’s exciting to see Shyamalan on such confident footing once more, all these years later.
In all the memories gathered together in "Gonzo: The Life and Work of Dr. Hunter S. Thompson," there was one subject I found conspicuously missing: The fact of the man's misery. Did he never have a hangover? The film finds extraordinary access to the people in his life, but not even from his two wives do we get a description I would dearly love to read, on what he was like in the first hour or two after he woke up. He was clearly, deeply, addicted to drugs and alcohol, and after a stupor-induced sleep he would have awakened in a state of withdrawal. He must have administered therapeutic dozes of booze or pills or something to quiet the tremors and the dread. What did he say at those times? How did he behave? Are the words "fear and loathing" autobiographical?
Of course, perhaps Thompson was immune. One of the eyewitnesses to his life says in wonderment, "You saw the stuff go in and there was no discernible effect." I don't think I believe that. If there was no discernible effect, how would you describe his behavior? If he had been sober all his life, would he have hunted wild pigs with a machine gun? Thompson was the most famous (or notorious) inebriate of his generation, but perhaps he really was one of those rare creatures who had no hangovers, despite the debaucheries of the day(s) before. How much did he consume? A daily bottle of bourbon, plus wine, beer, pills of every description.
The bottom line is, he got away with it, right up until his suicide, which he himself scripted and every one of his friends fully expected. As a journalist he got away with murder. He reported that during a presidential primary Edward Muskie ingested Ibogaine, a psychoactive drug administered by a "mysterious Brazilian doctor," and this information, which was totally fabricated, was actually picked up and passed along as fact. Thompson's joke may have contributed to Muskie's angry tantrums during the 1972 Florida primary. No other reporter could have printed such a lie, but Thompson was shielded by his legend: He could print anything. "Of all the correspondents," says Frank Mankiewicz, McGovern's 1972 campaign manager, "he was the least factual, but the most accurate."
He was an explosive, almost hypnotic, writer, with a savage glee in his prose. I remember eagerly opening a new issue of Rolling Stone in the 1970s and devouring his work. A great deal of it was untrue, but it dealt in a kind of exalted super-truth, as when he spoke of Richard Nixon the vampire roaming the night in Washington. Thompson had never heard of objectivity. In 1972 he backed George McGovern as the Democratic nominee, and no calumny was too vile for him to attribute to McGovern's opponents in both parties. I suppose readers were supposed to know that and factor it into the equation.