By Don Simpson | November 15, 2012
Director: Bryan Goluboff
Writer: Bryan Goluboff
Starring: Ezra Miller, Zoë Kravitz, Griffin Newman, Stefanie Hong, Edward Gelbinovich, Jesse McCartney, Amy Sedaris, Campbell Scott, James Urbaniak
Being that this film regretfully begins with its ending — then is told entirely in one long linear flashback — it comes as absolutely no surprise that things spiral out of control after Gavin (Jesse McCartney), the jock-cum-editor of the Parker Prep newspaper, cuts 90% of Eddie’s (Ezra Miller) cover story, turning it into a one paragraph fluff piece. Eddie immediately rebels by assembling a band of outsiders together to create their own newspaper with the intention of deconstructing the status quo and leveling the playing field between the cool kids and the outcasts.
The problem is that Eddie is a selfish egomaniac, so when Gavin fights back via the official school newspaper, Eddie turns his own newly-minted publication into a no-holds-barred assault on Gavin. Unfortunately, this includes Eddie willingly throwing his best friends — Evie (Zoë Kravitz), Ming (Stefanie Y. Hong), Rob (Griffin Newman) and Schneeman (Edward Gelbinovich) — under the proverbial bus in order to take down his arch-nemesis. Then again, since Gavin is a wrestler, Eddie would never be able to hold his own in any physical altercation with him, so he turns to the weapon he knows best: writing. Besides, Edward Bulwer-Lytton once wrote that “the pen is mightier than the sword,” right? Well, after witnessing the embarrassing viral mudslinging between Eddie and Gavin, it might have been simpler if these two high school kids settled their differences with a sword fight. If anything, this battle of wits will probably make you look back fondly upon the [pre-internet and pre-cable television] glory days of journalistic integrity.
Speaking of looking back… The time period all seems a bit muddled, as writer-director Bryan Goluboff approaches Beware the Gonzo with unbridled nostalgia for his own tenure in high school. Beware the Gonzo has an obvious soft-spot in its heart for 1980s cinema, with a plot that hearkens back to films like Heathers, Pump Up the Volume and Revenge of the Nerds, while crafting a lead protagonist who would have been played by either John Cusack, River Phoenix or Christian Slater. Additionally, the blatant reference to Hunter S. Thompson’s self-proclaim “gonzo” journalism dates the protagonist as someone who belongs in another era. Eddie is an old-fashioned pen and paper journalist (who pounds his gonzo-esque diatribes into his laptop while all hopped up on…Red Bull?) with seemingly no interest in the wide world of web publishing. Eddie only wants to do a print version of his underground newspaper, which makes sense because he is essentially creating a ‘zine; but then the plot does also require a video element, so luckily, Evie is much more modern than Eddie and she builds a supplemental website for the paper. Of course the minute that Eddie is threatened with suspension or expulsion he should have taken straight to the web, since the principal has no jurisdiction there. Also, it would have been interesting to witness how Eddie’s hard-hitting journalism would have been received outside the world of Parker Prep. Would outcasts and rebels around the world have rallied together to support him?
Sure, Goluboff’s film probably would have been stronger — or at least more coherent — if he chose to focus on either the olden days of print journalism or the modern days of internet publishing; but his mixed approach did not really ruin things for me. I too have a rich sense of nostalgia for those days of picking up handmade newspapers and magazines at school or in the local record store. I also do not think the internet holds the same punch as a good old fashioned socio-political diatribe in ink. Just the sheer amount of blood, sweat and tears that goes into hand-publishing a ‘zine seems to give the content more power to me. Anyone can post anything on the internet at any time for free, and that has unfortunately dissolved a few of the self-editing filters many writers inherently have. Then again, I would also rather flip through the pages of a book than read something on a Kindle or iPad. So maybe I am just old-fashioned? Then again, where is this review being published? That’s right! The trusty old internet.