Cine 105-Tues/ Thurs 6:00 p.m.
Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas/ Film Analysis
August 14, 2011
In the film Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Johnny Depp delivered an over the top performance with his depiction of Hunter S. Thompson, the notoriously wild and drug addicted father of “gonzo journalism.” His acting is considered “believable” as Depp applied a variety of techniques to accurately portray this author. Depp used facial expressions to convey the roller coaster of tumultuous emotion in which Thompson openly existed. Throughout the film, Depp applied many exaggerated facial expressions; opening his eyes widely, or squinting, and shooting quick darting glances about, each time clutching a cigarette holder in his teeth. Depp was able to exhibit the range of emotion present in Thompson’s daily life, from paranoia, intoxication and distrust, to the ever-obvious fear and loathing. Depp further manipulated vocal techniques to assimilate into his role of Thompson. Depp spoke in the method-acting fashion of low and rambled mumbling, through a cigarette holder, which seldom left his lips. He further used slurred and erratic speech patterns; scrambled sentences and a high pitched almost inanimate squeaking to enhance his drugged persona. The body language used to demonstrate Thompson is best described as accurate to the man he was. Depp touched objects as if they were coated in disease-laden viruses, and waltzed through tents, restaurants and casinos as if he owned them. His body was agile, malleable and appeared “slap-stick” at times, especially when painting the portrait of a man combining ether, acid and mescaline. Depp also dramatically changed his appearance to achieve a close likeness to Thompson. The center of his head was bald and he was extremely thin, compounded by his wearing of larger or baggy clothing. Depp also wore large yellow sunglasses as Thompson always did, as well as sported long sideburns, to maintain the continuity of depicting the 1970s. Depp achieved the look of Thompson through use of costume, loud clothing such as a green plastic bankers hat, and the infamous multicolored suede and leather patchwork jacket. The film allowed the audience a unique vantage-point; hearing Thompson’s thoughts periodically throughout the performance. These often-bizarre thoughts offer myriad details about both Thompson and Gonzo, which are not visually contained in the scenes. They offer a layer of depth to the characters as well as remind the viewer of their human or better qualities. Further, Thompson’s thoughts provide the viewer an insight into his psychological state as well as aid in understanding the dynamic of his interpersonal relationship with Gonzo. After Depp locks Gonzo in the loo and walks down to the casino to gamble, he asks, “What am I doing? Am I in a drug frenzy? Did I really come to Vegas to work on a story?” The narration adds the critical element of Thompson’s self-reflection. When Thompson and Gonzo are driving down the strip, Depp says “This is what it’s all about. Total Control. Two good old boys cruising down the strip…Ripped” This provides the audience an introspective look into the brutally honest and practically vulnerable mindset of Thompson. Depp thinking one thing but doing another, offers a foundation of good verses evil within himself internally, as well as with others and highlights his personal lack of control. At times, this tool of contradiction was illuminated by Depp’s narration, acting as a newly found or resurrected conscience. His verbal diarrhea is often not contained within his mind, as he asks, “Did I say that? Did they hear me?” when seated beside the hitchhiker. Thompson shifts back into the year 1965 and an acid crazed San Francisco bar named the Matrix. While examining his initiation with drug use, he sees himself and says “Holy Fuck, there I am.” It is as if he never reflects upon his life’s course or the...
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