Greetings again from the darkness. I suppose we are to give Hunter S Thompson the benefit of the doubt. Some of his writings are historically invaluable and models of brilliant writing. I doubt many would include The Rum Diary in that category. Director Bruce Robinson (Jennifer Eight, Withnail and I) does the best he can with enormous help from Thompson’s friend and biggest cheerleader, Johnny Depp.
The film plays as an autobiography supposing Thompson’s character Paul Kemp (Depp) would have been employed in 1960 at the San Juan Puerto Rico STAR, a newspaper run by English speaking Americans trying to report in Spanish speaking land. The editor is Lotterman (Richard Jenkins) who just wants simple human interest stories that the tourists will enjoy. When Kemp arrives, Lotterman asks him what kind of drinker he is. Kemp replies “the high end of social“. A greater understatement may never have been uttered. Kemp, and of course, the real life Thompson, ingested liquor at a pace and volume greater than a marathoner takes in water.
Kemp finds a drinking buddy in Sala (Michael Rispoli) who is the paper’s photographer. He is drawn into a shady land development plot by Sanderson (Aaron Eckhart), an American looking to capitalize financially by raping the undeveloped beach front land. He needs the help of Kemp to “sell” the project to investors, tourists and locals. Not surprisingly, Kemp’s vision is a bit cloudy and he screws this up while also turning the head of Sanderson’s lady, Chenault (Amber Heard). All the while, a shady, oddball figure played by Giovanni Ribisi is ALWAYS around. Ribisi’s character is the guy who, if in prison, other inmates would come to for “supplies”. Somehow, though, this character is free to roam about San Juan.
Depp does a standout job as Thompson again (Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas) with his speech pattern and ever present sunglasses. The feel of the 1960’s is on display with fashion and autos, but this one just didn’t do it for me. I suppose the message from Thompson here is that he did what he always envisioned himself doing … he went hard after the establishment bad guys and brought them down hard. However, this story rings a bit hollow and there are just too many missing pieces and too many holes.
SEE THIS MOVIE IF: you never miss anything with Johnny Depp or written by Hunter S Thompson … there is really no other reason.
SKIP THIS MOVIE IF: you are looking for a real introduction to the Gonzo Journalism that Hunter S Thompson was best at
watch the trailer: