SIFF Cue “The Day the Music Died”
posted by May 25 at 11:54 AMon
So I saw Gonzo yesterday at the Egyptian. Brad’s review is dead-on. It’s okay…it’s probably great if you don’t know much about Thompson but you want a crash course…but the great Thompson documentary has yet to happen.
The best part of the movie has to do with the 1972 campaign, which of course was the basis of Thompson’s best book, Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail ‘72. The movie pretty much nailed the deflated weirdness of the entire campaign.
(Politics-wonk ahead, and for the entirety of this italicized paragraph, so skip over if you’re not a history nerd: I was kind of perplexed by why the movie tried so desperately to make it seem as though Thompson derailed the Muskie campaign with his allegations that Muskie used drugs. Muskie had already derailed the Muskie campaign by crying, well before Thompson’s Ibogaine allegations. Also confusing was why they left out the fact that McGovern really fucked himself over by declaring that he was behind Eagleton 1000% before he flip-flopped and dropped him from the campaign.)
The beginning and the end of the film get a little too sappy and “you weren’t there, man” with the whole sixties thing. My entire life has been spent being told, again and again, exactly how important the sixties were, and I am so tired of hearing about it. This canonization of the entire sixties has gone from a cliche to some sort of meta-cliche back to being a cliche again. And the musical choices—“All Along the Watchtower,” (really?) “Sympathy For the Devil,” (oh, come on!) and “The Day the Music Died” (Jesus fucking Christ!) are embarrassing, obvious, and dull.
So there’s some stuff to get through. But there are moments where Thompson really shines. And there are other moments where he looks like a total dick. And those parts of the movie are really wonderful. It plays again at the Egyptian at 9 pm on Monday. If you have an interest in seeing it, you should go, and if you adjust your expectations, you’ll be glad that you did.
Also last night at home, I watched a documentary called Chisholm ‘72: Unbought and Unbossed. It’s about a black woman who ran for president in 1972. It’s a pretty great documentary about the same period as Gonzo, and it also is a perfect example of how you can make a movie about that time in American history without falling back on Freedom Rock. And Shirley Chisholm, with her giant hair and her dense lisp, is totally an inspiration. You should Netflix that after watching Gonzo.