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Midnight Movie: Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas


Benicio Del Toro and Johnny Depp on the road to Vegas in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (Universal)

Terry Gilliam's Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (playing April 25 and 26 at midnight at Landmark's La Jolla Village Theaters ) came after Twelve Monkeys and just before Gilliam attempted to tilt windmills (his attempt to bring Don Quixote to the screen with Johnny Depp failed). I couldn't find my review for the film from when it came out in 1998 but I remember loving it despite its flaws.

The movie is based on the semi-autobiographical memoirs of gonzo journalist Dr. Hunter S. Thompson. Thompson's roman a clef follows a journalist not unlike himself whose name is Raoul Duke (an almost unrecognizable Johnny Depp) and his attorney Dr. Gonzo (a heavily beefed up Benicio Del Toro) as they travel to Las Vegas in search of drugs, women and the American Dream. The tale mirrors a pair of Thompson's own trips to Vegas with an overweight Samoan lawyer named Oscar Zeta Acosta. His intent is to cover a motor cycle race, but his professional duties quickly fall by the wayside.

The pair's psychedelic, drug-induced weekend provides a metaphor for America adrift after the sixties. Duke, Gonzo and the film move in a permanent drug haze, and former Monty Pythonite Gilliam is just the right director to visualize that on the screen. The sense of disorientation and surrealism feels first-hand as if we were inside the heads of these characters. We're not being shown a couple of doped up guys, we're made to feel like one of them and it's a freaky, mind-bending experience. Depp and De Toro are amazing, both losing themselves in the bizarrely caricatured performances they deliver.

Enjoy this one on the big screen, and seeing it at midnight when your mind might be a little tired and fuzzy might make the experience all the better.

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