Thursday, 18 September 2008

No.75 : Where the Buffalo Roam

 Where the Buffalo Roam at the IMDb

Bill Murray stars as gonzo writer Hunter S. Thompson in this bio-pic that focuses on three episodes from his times as a journalist for Life magazine.

The film has a predictable book ending device that sees Murray at his desk with a deadline looming. Short of inspiration he thinks back to his past and the three episodes follow. We fist meet him in San Francisco in the 1960’s where he recalls the exploits of Lazlo, his lawyer, who turns up in each subsequent part. Bill sits in the courtroom as his friend defends some hippy pot smokers, unsuccessfully.

We then move to the 1972 Superbowl where Bill has a hotel suite and is fully abusing the expenses tab. He doesn’t go to the game and trades his tickets for a hat before joining Lazlo at his militia training camp.

The last part sees Bill on the campaign trail with nominee Richard Nixon. He is refused an interview but manages to get some prize quotes when he gets Odo off ‘Deep Space Nine’ high and nicks his credentials.

As the last story fades we rejoin Bill in the present with his dog and his assignment complete.

I didn’t really like this film much mainly because I didn’t like Bill Murray’s character at all. He was constantly being wacky and obstinate but came across as a total prick. You never got the impression that he was anything other than Bill Murray doing an impression, and that distraction undermined the whole film.

For a gonzo writer like Thompson the lazy framing method for the stories must have been an embarrassment and I doubt he liked being portrayed as a laconic douche bag either. Peter Boyle as Lazlo was a bit better and at least the mania from him didn’t seem forced. The other main player was an underused Bruno Kirby as Thompson’s editor who spent the whole film getting angry at missed deadlines.

The three episode format for the film did make it more digestible, but I don’t think anything was learned or developed from section to section. Lazlo was the only real connection and his part was more comic relief than essential to the stories. Of the three sections the last was best and the actor who played Richard Nixon did a pretty good job - better than Anthony Hopkins at least! This was the most fun too and saw Bill relegated form the journalist plane to the zoo plane where all the hangers on got high. And flew on it too. Boom Boom.

The opening episode was the worst with an interminable 30 minutes spent on some students getting tried for pot possession. I know it was to show how bad ‘the man’ was but it seemed a real waste of time as we joined Bill sitting casually by, watching events unfold. The middle part was ranked as such and had a few funny bits; but this was were Bill was at his most wasteful and annoying and some poor maid will have to clean that up.

I hadn’t heard of this film before, and it was a lot more accessible than the other Hunter bio-pic ‘Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas’, but it’s poor lead performance let it down along with the dull predictable script.

Best Bit Tricky Dickie in the toilet
‘W’ Score 11/23

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