Entertainment Magazine

Review #3567: The Rum Diary (2011)

Posted on the 27 June 2012 by Entil2001 @criticalmyth

Contributor: Andy Spencer

Written and directed by Bruce Robinson

Hunter S. Thompson must have been interesting company. He is famous for coining the term ‘gonzo journalism,’ exemplified by him in his novel (and later film) “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas”. The process involved getting hopped up on various drugs and simply throwing oneself at a story, and seeing what the result was. As you can imagine, this did not work out too well for his journalistic career, as it got him fired from a great many publications over the years.

Review #3567: The Rum Diary (2011)

“The Rum Diary”, like F&L, is semi-autobiographical in nature, and depicts the pre-drug Thompson as a seemingly hopeless alcoholic but also a well-meaning young reporter. The film is about his fictitious alter ego Paul Kemp’s (Johnny Depp) battle to save a dying Puerto Rican newsrag as well as to expose the shady dealings of Mr. Sanderson (Aaron Eckhart). The film starts quite well, introducing nearly every character appropriately and with expected humor in regard to each person’s nature. The first half hour or so is the best part of the film.

The fact that Thompson was a drug addict was clear in every frame of “Fear and Loathing”. Because he was so addled with symptoms of illicit chemicals, his story, along with his mind, rapidly lost cohesion and became a blur of colorful images that as a whole made almost no sense. In “The Rum Diary”, it is noticeably easier to understand what is going on, but only just. You have to really pay attention to perceive the connections between the events onscreen. I initially approved the choice of writer-director for this film: Bruce Robinson. Robinson, a lifetime alcoholic himself, knew what it was like down that road, and knew precisely how to make Depp’s character reflect this. Depp/Kemp consistently tells himself and other characters that he is desperately trying to cut down on his drinking habit, but clearly fails miserably.

As usual, Depp is spot-on with his performance, at more than one point inspiring sympathy for his plight, which usually spells misfortune for him wherever he goes. Depp reproduces Thompson’s low mutter of a voice perfectly (as he did in the film version of “Fear and Loathing”), making his character come to life as well as anyone could. In this respect, it is rather unfortunate all of the other characters in the film are underdeveloped, making Depp seem like a 3D mannequin surrounded by cardboard cutouts, some of which have been a bit lost in the translation from pages to a film reel. Notable for this aspect is Amber Heard, who plays Sanderson’s fiancee, Chenault. Yes, she is incredibly sexy, which is emphasized plenty in the movie. However, her character is weirdly written. Namely, if she falls in love with such an alcohol-driven man as Kemp, why was she even with Sanderson in the first place?

This is a movie to which it is difficult to assign a score. If you’re trying to find a good date flick, there are many worse choices, as the romantic segments of the movie are surprisingly tender. However, this was marketed as a comedy. If you and some friends are planning on seeing this, looking for a good time, you will laugh plenty, but come away wanting more. Moment for moment, this is a very good film. As a story, it falls disappointingly short.

Score: 6/10

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