"Buy the ticket, take the ride" - a philosophy once attributed to Raoul Duke, the writing alias and part time persona of the late Hunter S. Thompson, who is the subject of a 2006 documentary which takes the quote as its name. The film, which originally aired on cable and was made available on DVD last year takes a retrospective look at the legendary Gonzo journalist as told through interviews with his network of celebrity friends, family, and collaborators that he cultivated through the years.
The conversations with folks like Johnny Depp, Bill Murray, Benicia Del Toro, John Cusack, and Sean Penn reveal a softer side of Thompson. Unlike the crazed maniac he portrayed himself as in his writing as a fiend who constantly pushed the limits of everything around him through a haze of drugs and alcohol, the Thompson that people knew while they communed with them at his famed Owl Creek Ranch in Colorado apparently was more of a southern gentleman who happened to like Kentucky bourbon, kittens, and setting off explosives and firearms in his remote compound.
Hardcore Hunter Thompson fans may recognize the material covered in "Buy the Ticket, Take the Ride" as the film derives a lot of its footage from the Thompson inspired film "Where the Buffalo Roam" and previous documentaries including "Breakfast with Hunter" from 2003 and the 1979 BBC made "Gonzovision" feature which is also found on the Criterion edition of "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas", the Terry Gilliam directed adaptation of Thompson's most popular book that resurrected the cult of Hunter S. Thompson for a new generation.
Despite the re-used footage, "Buy the ticket, take the ride" does offer some insight into Thompson's death showing his lifelong obsession with his own elaborate funeral plans which were carried out by blasting his ashes out of a massive cannon wrapped around the iconic 'Gonzo' fist emblem which appeared in Thompson's books. The footage of the ceremony, and the bizarre session with Gary Busey, who directs the documentary crew on how to interview him, makes "Buy the Ticket Take the Ride" worth watching. However its interviews with Ralph Steadman whose loose, wild, ink-stained illustrations became as much a part of Thompson's identity as his writing, remind us that ultimately Thompson was the kind of friend to leave messages on answering machines at all hours of the night and was loyal and dedicated to those close to him to the very end.
It's approaching three years since the notorious Hunter S. Thompson committed suicide at his home and as tragic as this may seem, watching "Buy the ticket, take the ride" helps take some of the edge off of losing one of America's most iconic authors.
'Because it still hasn't gotten weird enough for me', for Movie Magazine, this is Purple.
© 2008 - Purple - Air Date: 2/13/08
Buy the Ticket, Take the Ride: Hunter S. Thompson on Film
USA - 2006