The Rum Diary (7/6/12)

Rum DiaryMovie One Hundred Fifty Nine

Based on the Hunter S. Thompson novel, The Rum Diary is about writer Paul Kemp’s employment for a Puerto Rican newspaper.

Taking place in the 1960s, Paul Kemp (Johnny Depp) arrives in Puerto Rico as an American wrtier that has been unsuccessful and gets a job at a newspaper in San Juan. Kemp stays at a hotel where he meets Sala (Michael Rispoli) and also runs into beautiful Chenault (Amber Heard). Later, Kemp meets with Sanderson (Aaron Eckhart), a realtor trying to convert Puerto Rico for his own benefit. Kemp moves in with Sala and Moberg (Giovanni Ribisi) and then has to decide whether or not to help Sanderson or side with the locals.

In reflecting on The Rum Diary it’s actually quite difficult to detail the plot for a few reasons; it’s confusing for no reason and it’s also fairly uninteresting. Now, I love Hunter S. Thompson and his work but this movie is disappointing. While Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, also starring Depp as Thompson, was hilarious and perfectly captures Thompson’s gonzo style, The Rum Diary seemingly tries to remove itself from this and focuses on the beauty of Puerto Rico.

I will admit that I haven’t read The Rum Diary, but if it’s anything like the film, I have no interest in it anymore. Perhaps the faults of the film are due to the novel’s, Thompson was young when he wrote it and maybe he had not quite honed his craft. Or perhaps the film is lazy and doesn’t care about telling the story, I’m not sure. The sad thing, is that the film starts off strong and then my attention started waning near the midpoint and then two of the longest hours of my life later, The Rum Diary was over and I wanted to watch Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.

Of course, The Rum Diary is not a total failure, just a misfire. The acting is all well done, and Depp plays a cool mixture of a suave young guy and threw in a few of Thompson’s traits. The scenery of the island is stunning and is offset by the seedier parts of town which is so contrasting that it’s almost a distraction. If I had the chance to read The Rum Diary, I would certainly take that over watching The Rum Diary again. At times the film had my laughing but for the most part I was staring waiting for the end. Possibly my biggest disappointment of the year.

I give it 3 “try and look normal”s out of 5.


Rotten Tomatoes


14 responses to “The Rum Diary (7/6/12)

  1. “While Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, also starring Depp as Thompson”

    Depp plays Raoul Duke, not Thompson.

    Otherwise, decent review. I wasn’t expecting you to give it a 3/5 after reading it though. I watched it back in February and gave it a 5.5/10.

    Looking back I think I was too forgiving. I really didn’t like the movie.

    • Well, the fictionalized-fact blend of gonzo makes Thompson into Duke in Fear and Loathing and as Kemp in Rum Diary so I thought just calling him ‘Thompson’ was apt.
      I was a bit harsh on it in the text I just didn’t think it was worse than a 3.

  2. I wrote a while ago about how I’m tired of Depp. That was probably the biggest reason I stayed away from this movie, and its tepid reviews validated my thoughts.

  3. It is a misfire, for sure. My feeling is that Thompson died before it was finished so it became an homage. He was alive when it was conceptualized The book sounds and feels much more like what we know as him. The casting was strong. That helped carry it.

  4. can you explain “gonzo journalism”? when i try to understand it, all i see is getting drunk/high, going someplace, and writing about it. but i can’t be right.

    • I don’t think that’s too far off, actually. The way I understand gonzo is that it’s a firsthand account of what the author is writing about. It’s about becoming the subject, then the writing is almost like a firsthand diary account but from a third party. The drugs and alcohol are just a catalyst, I suppose.

  5. This movie put weight on my eyelids. It wasn’t enjoyable or even remotely interesting. It bored me because it relied on Depp to deliver dimension when there’s nothing much going on in the script.

  6. Pingback: My July Movies Round-Up | Andy Watches Movies

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