Where the Buffalo Roam

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Last week I professed my love for an old classic novel. Well, I am not just a one trick pony. I also have an inordinate affection for Hunter S. Thompson arguably the exact opposite of the Bronte sisters and their gothic romance universe. Thompson is the ultimate rebel and heady journalist. He is able to exact beautiful language from strange situations that he puts himself into. Thompson isn’t afraid to push himself nor the people around him. His persona and his writing attracts the rebellious crowd and he has become a much revered representative of alternative writing. With such a high-profile and crazy stories, it is obvious that the movie industry wants to take a hold of him and film his exploits through actors and a hodge podge of his own stories. These projects attract actors seeking to prove themselves by disappearing into his affectations and crazy directors trying to realize a crazy pipe dream. It usually does not turn out well. You cannot fully capture the spirit of an animal so wild and free on the front page. Where the Buffalo Roam tries to  combine several of his stories into one large continuing narrative. The story of Thompson’s lawyer, Lazlo, appears in several stories of his but then drifts back out as just as abruptly. This movie attempts to piece together these stories in a coherent and straight forward way. What is achieved is far from a unique movie.

Thompson, played by Bill Murray, has an appointment with Lazlo, his lawyer. He meets him at a the courthouse which gives Thompson a chance to observe Lazlo fight the unfair fight first hand. Lazlo represents a series of hippies who have been caught with pot. He defends them with colorful language and grand gestures, only to be ignored by everyone and his clients given severe sentences. Lazlo now vows that he will never come back to court ever again. Instead he goes off with Thompson on a bender. Lazlo drifts in and out of Thompson’s life. One moment he is with him in Vegas and the next he is gone. All the while Thompson lives the party lifestyle, always carrying a gun, a bucket of ice and a glass full of whiskey.

The director attempts to understand Thompson’s motivations through Lazlo and he fails miserably. While both are obsessively smart people who like to live in excess, they are actually both quite different. Splitting our time between the two achieves nothing in trying to understand either character. Thompson himself is written as all affectation. Murray just really tries an odd accent and odd things instead of creating an actual character. This leads to a superficial and very boring interpretation of his most iconic works. If you like Thompson, I would skip this movie. It will bring you no joy.

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