“The Rum Diary” is a film based on the novel by Hunter S. Thompson, a man who is most famous for his creation of Gonzo journalism. Thompson changed the world of journalism by inserting himself into the story, and not only observing it but actually living it. “The Rum Diary” is the semi-autobiographical story of Thompson’s time writing in Puerto Rico when he was 22 years old. Although he began writing the novel in his early twenties, it wasn’t published until 1998. Now, approximately six years after Thompson’s death, it has been adapted into a film.
The movie stars Johnny Depp, a dear friend of Thompson’s ever since working on “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas,” a movie based on the novel for which Thompson is most famous. There are also some big names in supporting roles, such as Aaron Eckhart, Amber Heard, Richard Jenkins, Michael Rispoli and Giovanni Ribisi.
The protagonist of the film, Paul Kemp, moves to San Juan, Puerto Rico to write for a small, dying newspaper. While there, Kemp struggles with his connections to a corrupt entrepreneur, coming to a crossroads of either assisting the businessman with his writing or bringing him down. Meanwhile, he also copes with a severe alcohol dependency — or maybe just an appreciation for it, who’s to say?
There are many things to like about “The Rum Diary.” First off, the performances are pretty much top-notch. Johnny Depp, as always, impresses and makes for comedic relief with his bizarre facial expressions added to almost every scene. Other notable performances are by Michael Rispoli, who plays Kemp’s sidekick Sala, and Giovanni Ribisi as Moberg, a Nazi alcoholic on the verge of cognitive failure.
Also, the cinematography is intriguing and elaborate. If you don’t like the story, the location of the film is sure to draw you in. The film was shot on location in San Juan, Puerto Rico among beautiful beaches and a gorgeous landscape, with many aerial shots to display the immense beauty of the country. It is practically guaranteed that by the film’s conclusion, you will want to pay a visit to Puerto Rico.
There are very few select scenes in the entire film that do not involve drinking. Almost every scene begins with the pouring of a glass of rum or scotch, including a few scenes with 470 proof alcohol which works just as well getting you inebriated as it does as a flamethrower.
I have to warn everyone out there that the film might be more enjoyable with a bit of rum, because I was definitely craving it throughout. In fact, as soon as I got back home, I went straight to SOS Liquor to buy some for myself. This movie makes drinking at work seem as cool as it does on “Mad Men.”
Admittedly, this film is not for everyone. The story, while interesting to some, can be lacking to others. While there is a definitive plot, there is little drama. Also, the movie is about 30 minutes too long, as it dwindles in its last half hour, struggling to keep its head above water. Finally, the ending seems unresolved and leaves you wondering what was accomplished in the past two hours. However, anyone with an appreciation for writing, culture, or booze is sure to be entertained for the majority of the film.
As a huge Hunter S. Thompson fan, I would recommend this film to anyone who shares an admiration for his work, or for the art of writing in general. Overall, the film is an enjoyable booze-filled adventure with comedy sprinkled throughout.
While it is surely not a groundbreaking, Oscar-stealing film, it was worth the money for me.