Buy the Ticket, Take the Ride Review
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Fans of the late gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson won’t want to miss Buy the Ticket, Take the Ride: Hunter S. Thompson on Film. The documentary tells about Thompson’s life, with a special focus on his relationship with Hollywood—as told by Thompson himself, as well as his wife and son, childhood friends, journalists, authors, critics, friends, and several of the actors who knew Thompson best.

Narrated by a rather haggard-sounding Nick Nolte, Buy the Ticket briefly discusses Thompson’s childhood and early career, including readings of some of his early work. But it focuses on the birth of gonzo journalism—with Thompson’s 1970 article, “The Kentucky Derby is Decadent and Depraved,” a collaboration with artist Ralph Steadman—and Thompson’s rise as an icon. It goes on to recount Thompson’s life at his home in Woody Creek, Colorado, the friends who came to visit (or to stay a while), and the infamous parties and late-night phone calls to friends. It also discusses Thompson’s plans for his over-the-top funeral—and of his death in 2005.

Buy the Ticket includes clips from Thompson’s films, 1980’s Where the Buffalo Roam (starring Bill Murray) and 1998’s Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (starring Johnny Depp)—as well as another Thompson documentary, 2003’s Breakfast with Hunter. It also features interviews with a number of celebrities, including Depp and Murray, Benicio Del Toro, Sean Penn, John Cusack, and Gary Busey (whose crazy interview clips are reason enough to see the film).

While it isn’t necessarily the most exciting or energetic of documentaries, Buy the Ticket paints a fascinating portrait of a man who slept all day, ate a huge breakfast when he got up in the afternoon, and made manic phone calls to his friends in the middle of the night. (You even get to hear a few of the messages he left on answering machines when friends failed to pick up the phone.) Though the end feels a bit drawn-out—and it could have probably ended 15 minutes or so earlier—the rest of the film is interesting. If you’re a fan of Thompson’s work, the film is guaranteed to have you popping Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas into your DVD player to watch it again. Or, if you haven’t seen Where the Buffalo Roam (like I hadn’t), you’ll find yourself rushing out to find a copy. And it’ll definitely have you eagerly anticipating the 2008 release of The Rum Diary. Even if you’ve never been a fan of Hunter S. Thompson, But the Ticket, Take the Ride offers an intriguing little piece of Hollywood history that’s worth just over an hour of your time.

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