Oh how pumped I was for this movie! How much I declared I would see it opening weekend! How much did I ponder about Johnny Depp’s anti-aging genes! And oh, oh dear Lovelies, oh how much I loathed The Rum Diary.
Perhaps “loathed” is too strong a word? Because if I loathed something, it would imply there was something there towards which I would direct my rage fumes. It would mean that this film had much more substance to it than pretty people and beautiful Puerto Rican vistas — sadly, it did not. It’s much sadder to despise something that simply limps along without much plot, emotion, or anything to hold on to than it is to debate what something could have, might have been because some other things are almost there*. There’s nothing to work with here.
Supposedly The Rum Diary was a pet project for Depp, who found the novel amongst his late friend’s artifacts back in the ’90s, and got Hunter S. Thompson to publish the pre-Gonzo era novel. [via LA Weekly] This is pre-Fear and Loathing Thompson, but it’s still based a little on his life as a reporter in San Juan in the ’60s, told through the haze of perpetually drunk character Paul Kemp (Depp). Kemp manages his days through alcohol as he writes articles (and horoscopes) for the local newspaper, takes in the poverty of the native Puerto Ricans, and also finds himself falling in love with the beautiful blond fiancé (Amber Heard) of a rich developer (Aaron Eckhart).
And Depp looks great — even when he’s plastered — as does Heard, who is the epitome of “bombshell” on the screen. But despite all these characters (and there are a lot more) and the somewhat interesting premise here, nothing catches. At times I wasn’t sure if I was bored because the story was faltering or because the editing of the movie was awful — then I realized it was both.
While, yes, I have to credit the actors here because Depp embodies the spirit of his deceased friend so well, and everyone else in the movie seems to play their parts as much as they can — the real culprit here lies in the screenwriter and director, Bruce Robinson. The adaptation of the story skews from the book too much and too little. Obviously Thompson’s writing was always helped by a more streamlined narrative, but he also cut and melded much of the story. The impact of certain parts were cut down and pared and edited away to nothing. Nothing mattered, nothing was of consequence and there is no climax because the viewer doesn’t understand what happened in the rush to the end.
The Rum Diary is about the American dream and trying to find one’s voice, I suppose. However, there was no impact here. Instead there’s just inter-cut scenes from the life of a man on an island, and while there are big laughs occasionally, there is nothing that comes together to make sense by the end. Truly, Thompson rarely made lineal sense as a writer, but where Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas brought that non-sensical, comedic, and yet enthralling vision to the screen — The Rum Diary decidedly falters.
Director/Writer: Bruce Robinson
Original story: Hunter S. Thompson
Starring: Johnny Depp, Amber Heard, Aaron Eckhart, Michael Rispoli, Giovanni Ribisi
Film is out now in theaters. Rated R.
* Perfect example = all David Lynch films. There’s so much to ponder and debate! So many people can’t stand it, but they know it’s good or could be good, and some people think they are brilliant just as they are. The Rum Diary is the opposite of that.
Have you seen the movie? Do you agree with me or did you love the movie? Want to get into what you loved? Let’s discuss!