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The Rum Diary

A movie directed by Bruce Robinson

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It's no Fear and Loathing; although that could mean different things to different people.

  • Mar 15, 2012
*** out of ****

"The Rum Diary" is often acknowledged as one of Hunter S. Thompson's weakest works; a good story with good, intellectual notions and intentions that was ruined by mainstream glamor - the kind that Thompson had trouble escaping at the time. And now here's the film adaptation of the inferior novel; under the direction of Bruce Robinson, and starring Johnny Depp. Now if you know your stuff when it comes to cinema, you'll know that Depp is just about the only actor out there who can flawlessly channel the psychotic breakdowns and crudely bizarre humor that was Thompson's to claim; he's a zany fellow, and in that sense, he shares a part of the great author's mind, or at least he seems to understand it. Once again, he steps in the shoes of one of Thompson's whacky literary creations - a lot different from Raoul Duke, who he portrayed in Terry Gilliam's adaptation of "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas" - with genuinely amusing results. But I can't say I'm very surprised.

For the sake of the story, Thompson names the character Paul Kemp. Set and filmed in Puerto Rico; the premise of the film is to explore Thompson's pre-narcotic days, when he was just discovering the hidden wonders of fine alcohol, rather than the more dangerous obsessions and addictions that were to come along. Kemp makes the move from New York so that he can write for a local magazine that has hired him as one of its contributors: The San Juan Star. During his stay, Kemp indulges in the consumption of rum, the making of off-beat friends, and the evading of Latino policemen and native criminals. He bunks at a new-found amigo's place - that of Bob Sala (Michael Rispoli) - and develops an obsessive, excessive attraction for a beach-side beauty; Chenault (Amber Heard), whose heart belongs to - albeit not honestly - to the businessman Hal Sanderson (Aaron Eckhart). This means the start of a complicated and pseudo-tragic love triangle; although by the end, we're told that it's also the start of something new all-together in the life of this Thompson parable.

If the movie has flaws - and it most certainly does - it's primarily that it's consistently predictable. It never steers off-course when it comes to its central narrative, although there are these likable little moments of profound oddity that are anything but conventional. Appropriately enough, Thompson's novel has been turned into a product of pure Hollywood, but that's not so different from how the press vulgarized the supposed brilliance of the source literary work. So with that in mind, I'm going to have to say that "The Rum Diary" is good not only as a stand-alone film, but also as an adaptation; as long as you go in with the right reasons - and with the right mindset - you're likely to come out rather happy. It's not great cinema - or great screenwriting, or acting, or anything at all - but a lot of talent is on display, and I was entertained. It's likely one of the more different and colorful cinematic offerings from 2011's Hollywood section. They don't often make them like this anymore.

The film is filled with likable and enjoyable characters. I won't say that they're characters of intriguing depths, but most of them are fun to be around; especially a character played by Giovanni Risibi, who appears to be forever lost in a sea of drugs and rum. There are certainly some laugh-out-loud funny moments brought to us by this actor - and this character - even if Depp is likely the main reason why most will see the film expecting healthy doses of humor and peculiarity. Eckhart is effective as his rich, suitably unlikable snob; while Amber Heard is solid as his coveted prize. I also really admired the performance of Michael Rispoli, who I know from other media and movies like "The Sopranos" and "Kick-Ass". He's a fun sort of side-kick to the uncontrollable driving force that is Johnny Depp, and I hope to see more of him in the future, even if this film isn't quite big or over-praised enough to put him on the map quite yet. The only character that I absolutely despised was Kemp's boss, the tyrant Mr. Lotterman (Richard Jenkins), who is the editor of The San Juan Star. But I guess it's only appropriate that I'd not enjoy the presence of such a thoroughly greedy, despicable, and unpleasant man.

A lot of movies have these great locations, yet they fail to make good use of them; but I think one of my favorite things about "The Rum Diary" was director Robinson's ability to provide us with some drop-dead gorgeous sights. This is post-card Puerto Rico at its finest; with the water so clear, the forests so lovely, and the underworld so dark. My favorite scenes were evidentially the weirdest ones; such as the image of Ribisi in near-full Nazi uniform, and a local tradition of Rooster brawls. If you share my affinity for such delightfully strange things, then you'll probably enjoy your stay in this troubled paradise. The film does not have insights, no great messages, nor is there any emotional payoff or satisfaction; but if the film had attempted any of those things, then it wouldn't have so skillfully avoided the false pretensions of most dramedies. "The Rum Diary" may not be imperfect, but it knows of its strengths and weaknesses. If you're a fan of Depp, you'll want to give it a try. Good, bad; I'd like to see any one of you find me another film from 2011 that featured a giant, slender CGI tongue.

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More The Rum Diary (2011 film) reviews
review by . October 29, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
I am at a slight disadvantage here since I have never read the autobiographical book by Hunter S. Thompson, so I cannot really declare just how faithful it is to its source material (or what inspired this film). I believe this film could qualify as a sort of 'events before' the novel, but I am not sure. Regardless, director Bruce Robinson’s “The Rum Diary” is competently executed and I could almost believe that this was Thompson as a 22-year old (ok, Depp is certainly older …
review by . November 07, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
Somewhere there is a good story buried in this movie. Its a shame the screenplay never finds it. I really wanted to like this movie. Even while sitting through it I kept thinking I really wanted to like it. But it went nowhere and really told no story. Hunter S. Thompson is such a fascinating personality. They really could have done so much more. I would subtitle this movie Fear and Loathing Lite.
About the reviewer
Ryan J. Marshall ()
Ranked #3
It's very likely that the only kind of reviews I'll ever post here are movie reviews. I'm very passionate about film; and at this point, it pretty much controls my life. Film gives us a purpose; … more
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The Rum Diary is a 2011 film based on the novel of the same name by Hunter S. Thompson. The film is directed by Bruce Robinson and stars Johnny Depp. Filming began in Puerto Rico in March 2009. It was released on October 28, 2011.[4] It marks Robinson's first film as director in nineteen years, his prior film being Jennifer 8, released in

  • The Rum Diary
  • Opened October 28, 2011 | Runtime:2 hr. 0 min.
  • R
    language, sexuality and brief drug use
  • Information for parents: Common Sense Media says not for kids. Read More
  • Tiring of the noise and madness of New York and the crushing conventions of late Eisenhower-era America, Kemp travels to the pristine island of Puerto Rico to write for a local newspaper, The San Juan Star, run by downtrodden editor Lotterman (Richard Jenkins). Adopting the rum-soaked life of the island, Paul soon becomes obsessed with Chenault (Amber Heard), the wildly attractive Connecticut-born fiancée of Sanderson (Aaron Eckhart). Sanderson, a businessman involved in shady property development deals, is one of a growing number of American entrepreneurs who are determined to convert Puerto Rico into a capitalist paradise in service of the wealthy. When Kemp is recruited by Sanderson to write favorably about his latest unsavory scheme, the journalist is presented with a choice: to use his words for the corrupt businessmen’s financial benefit, or use them to take the bastards down.
  • Cast: Johnny Depp, Aaron Eckhart, ...
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Cast: Johnny Depp
Director: Bruce Robinson
Genre: Comedy
Screen Writer: Bruce Robinson
DVD Release Date: TBA
Runtime: 120 minutes
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