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Patricia Arquette’s Hunter S. Thompson-Inspired Drama – The Hollywood Reporter

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Gonzo Woman, Patricia Arquette’s function directorial debut, just isn’t technically about Hunter S. Thompson. It’s a few Hunter S. Thompson sort, Walker Reade (Willem Dafoe), invented by Cheryl Della Pietra for her semi-autobiographical novel impressed by her temporary stint as Thompson’s assistant. Nevertheless it’s not likely about Walker, both. Its heroine is Alley Russo (Camila Morrone), Della Pietra’s fictionalized analogue, a fresh-faced faculty grad plucked from obscurity to assist out her idol as he writes his new novel.

It’s by Alley’s eyes that we come to know the quirks of this genius, experiencing each his magnetism and his informal cruelty. It’s Alley’s journey we hint into the near-surreal chaos surrounding him, and Alley’s profession aspirations we’re meant to root for. However Rebecca Thomas and Jessica Caldwell’s uneven script undermines its personal goals. In the long run, Gonzo Woman is extra persuasive as a portrait of a icon in decline than it’s of a rising star wresting management of her personal story.

Gonzo Woman

The Backside Line

Extra convincing as a portrait of a fading star than a rising one.

Venue: Toronto Worldwide Movie Pageant (Discovery)
Forged: Willem Dafoe, Camila Morrone, Patricia Arquette, Elizabeth Lail, Ray Nicholson, Leila George, James Urbaniak
Screenwriters: Rebecca Thomas, Jessica Caldwell
Director: Patricia Arquette


1 hour 47 minutes

Walker comes by loud and clear from the movie’s first moments, because the “father of gonzo journalism” struts right into a guide studying with the swagger of a rock star. It’s hardly information at this level in Dafoe’s profession that he could be superb at going very huge, nevertheless it’s a pleasure to look at him work nonetheless. Walker glows with a white-hot charisma that makes it clear why so many are drawn to him, and burns with an unpredictability that provides his very presence an fringe of hazard. That is the (not fairly) Hunter S. Thompson persona that’s enchanted followers for the reason that Sixties, whose sunglasses-clad smirk has been immortalized in movies like Worry and Loathing in Las Vegas and who lives on to this present day within the cultural reminiscence as each distinctive icon and acquainted archetype.

By the point Alley will get to Walker’s Colorado hideaway within the Nineties, nevertheless, he’s extra prolific at snorting traces than writing them. Alley’s been employed to stay by his facet from 9 at night time till 5 within the morning, doing no matter she should to get him typing by 2 a.m. “We both know it’s a sham,” she thinks to herself in certainly one of Gonzo Woman‘s intermittent voiceovers. “He hasn’t written anything worth reading in 15 years.” Nonetheless, pushed in equal measure by her want to show herself to her literary hero and her want for the cash this job guarantees her, she throws herself headfirst into his dizzying routine of events, benders and purchasing sprees.

Earlier than lengthy, Alley finds herself intoxicated, and never simply by the mountains of cocaine and rivers of whiskey. “He has an ability to make everything feel like an adventure,” she marvels. A picnic with Walker is rarely only a picnic, however a chance for him and his movie-star bestie (Ray Nicholson) to troll their neighbor Rick Springfield (taking part in himself) with fireworks; a day dangle with a buddy devolves into a wonderful paint combat. So Alley takes the medicine he provides her, learns to hold together with his hard-partying crowd, trades her frumpy faculty sweaters for lacy minidresses. She develops a rapport with Walker flirtatious sufficient to draw the ire of his present squeeze, the perpetually soused and bikini-clad Devaney (Elizabeth Lail). And he or she writes — rewriting Walker’s prose earlier than faxing the pages to his editor (James Urbaniak), and scribbling her personal observations in a journal in her down time.

Gonzo Woman‘s disinterest in judging its characters too harshly is one of its strengths. Even as the film recognizes the uneven power dynamic in its central pair, the film grants Alley the agency to make her own choices and work through her own complicated emotions in the face of Walker’s towering affect. Arquette adores a showy sequence to carry us into Alley’s subjective expertise — golden sparks and cooed Italian to indicate a boozy romantic excessive, woozy hallucinations to seize her disorientation on acid. Collectively, they convey the ecstatic pleasure of her spell with Walker, if not essentially the emotional exhaustion accompanying it.

However Alley is saved at arm’s size by an awkwardly paced script that has her rework seemingly in a single day. We barely get an opportunity to parse how Alley feels in regards to the world she’s been thrust into earlier than she turns into part of it — or, later, to marvel if she’s in too deep earlier than she’s being warned by a involved buddy that she is. Morrone is a likable display presence who pours herself into Alley’s curiosity or her anger, her tenderness or her anguish. But her tears would certainly hit tougher if we understood higher the place they have been coming from. (In the meantime, the supposed sexual rigidity between Morrone and Dafoe is forged in such broad strokes that we really feel little of both its pleasure or its peril.) Gonzo Woman may by no means be completely boring when there’s at all times one other substance to be tried, one other social gathering crowd to allure, one other grand speech to jot down. However the shortchanging of its ostensible lead makes it lower than absolutely partaking.

Walker is less complicated to parse, partially as a result of he’s preceded by the legend of the true Thompson. The parable of the supposedly singular male genius is contradicted by Gonzo Woman‘s focus on the strenuous group effort required to prop it up, much of it done by women. Though he’s constructed his fame and his fortune on the ability of his phrases, Alley’s makes an attempt to get him to sit down down and write appear akin to squeezing blood from a stone. His day-to-day affairs — managing his employees, choosing up his medicine, shoveling the peacock shit littering his properties — are left to Claudia (Arquette), a longtime assistant owed years of again pay. Walker’s persistently brash public persona attracts associates and admirers, however Gonzo Woman additionally lets us into quieter moments spent cuddling platonically with Claudia or rehashing bittersweet childhood reminiscences with Alley.

“Not everyone gets to be the main character,” Claudia muses to an more and more disillusioned Alley, months into her keep. “We all make the book in our own way.” Her phrases, light although they’re, come as restricted consolation to a younger girl whose dream has been to make her personal title on the literary scene, not toil anonymously for another person’s. This movie’s very existence would appear a rebuke to Claudia’s remark, proof that major characters will not be at all times the place, or who, the world expects them to be. It’s solely too unhealthy that, having put Alley entrance and middle, the movie nonetheless retains her at a distance. For all of the indelible highs and lows of Alley’s time with Walker (or, one can presume, of Della Pietra’s with Thompson) — and for its occasional, fleeting joys — Gonzo Woman makes no comparable mark.

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