Rum Diary, the (2011)

November 03, 2011 By Mike B
Movie Review

What Worked?

Based on Hunter S. Thompson’s novel of the same name, the Rum Diary follows a freelance journalist named Paul Kemp who gets tangled up in alcoholic lust, treachery, a dangerous love triangle and the everyday weirdness of Puerto Rico in the 1950s. For many Johnny Depp and Hunter S. Thompson fans, this has been a film that’s sat on the shelf¬† for too long, and finally it has arrived for our viewing pleasure. For those who expect something of a feel to Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, this film will disappoint because it is of it’s own world with a younger variation of Thompson leading the way.

The Puerto Rican locations are gorgeous, and make things easier to film as the scenery pops out of the screen. The film isn’t as visually captivating as Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, but there are flourishes of visual bang, such as a snake tongue and a bowling ball rolling towards bottles of rum in place of pins.¬† The script is an intelligent, gonzo-filled piece with dialogue that snaps with oddities and intellectual wonders that are quirky and awkwardly endearing at times. Hunter S. Thompson’s book is solidly translated to film, and all the characters are nearly spot-on.

“I’ve got no voice, I don’t know how to write like me,” Paul Kemp says to Chenault. The ageless Depp, as Kemp, is right on the money with his channeling of a younger Hunter S. Thompson. Kemp is a wanderer of sorts, an alcoholic trying to be an author with an open-mind for the weird and crude nature of the world. Depp captures the developing intellect of Thompson and really gives you the feeling that Kemp is in the process of finding his “voice.” By the end of the film we receive his proclamation: “I will try to speak for my reader. That is my promise and it will be a voice made of ink and rage.”

The supporting cast play their roles with great effort, especially Giovanni Ribisi’s interesting turn as Moburg, a crazed writer turned crazed bum, with his nasally, rough accent and wildly terrific comments. Ribisi, as Moburg, is gives a jolt of energy to every scene he is in. Amber Heard is a beautiful sight, but there’s a sense of sadness in her that projects through silence, giving her a slight depth not found in most eye-candy.

The Rum Diary is a little more than satisfactory, and it does display quite an odd adventure with observations of some richly odd characters. Depp and the cast do their thing, and it’s almost enough for the entire run time to keep the film from getting sober.

Potential Drawbacks:

The story is anything but linear, so if you don’t enjoy films that study characters, then this film will be hard to swallow. The characters in the film may be somewhat hard to relate to for some viewers, as most of them are quirky and out there.

Some may find themselves bored because the film is a tad heavy on dialogue, and this isn’t the type of film Depp has been doing in the past several years. It’s more of an artsy film; the type of films he did earlier in his career in abundance and also does now every so often.

The Run Diary is a difficult novel to translate to film because the novel rambles along with no clear story, so adapting that for the silver screen is challenging. There is no clear direction in the film, and at times it seems as if Depp and company are simply living as their characters simply because that’s what the novel projects.

Film Recommendations:

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas
Gonzo: the Life and Work of Dr. Hunter S. Thompson
Where the Buffalo Roam

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