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The Rum Diary

A movie directed by Bruce Robinson

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"Rum" Portrays A Tale When Hunter S. Thompson Was Young and in Puerto Rico ....

  • Oct 29, 2011
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 than 22) in the early 1960’s after an assignment as a newspaper reporter in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Robinson (who also wrote the script) created an alter-ego for Thompson in the persona of Paul Kemp who is trying to find his calling as a writer.

Paul Kemp (Johnny Depp, Rango) is a journalist who moves from one place to another, as long as he gets a job as a journalist. During the Eisenhower administration, Kemp travels to U.S. territory Puerto Rico to write for a local newspaper ran by Lotterman (Robert Jenkins). Once there, Kemp gets enlisted to write favorably of a real estate scheme headed up by Sanderson (Aaron Eckhart) and becomes obsessed with his fiancee, Chenault (deliciously played by sexy Amber Heard, Drive Angry). Trying to keep himself out of trouble, Kemp is befriended by a fellow journalist, Bob Salas (Michael Rispoli) and an eccentric named Moberg (Giovanni Ribisi), but it seems like that shady deal with Sanderson and his cahoots is about to drop a few complications in his life and Kemp is left to face a choice….

              Giovanni Ribisi, Johnny Depp and Michael Rispoli in "The Rum Diary."

             Aaron Eckhart as Sanderson and Amber Heard as Chenault in "The Rum Diary."

             Amber Heard as Chenault in "The Rum Diary."

Bruce Robinson did a good job in bringing the viewer to this period of time. I could really feel that I was in 60’s Puerto Rico, the atmosphere, the costumes, the vehicles and the set designs were all reminiscent of this day and age. I also liked the way the film was shot in a sort of a muggy look that almost mimicked the camerawork shot in a standard old 35 mm film. The direction clearly went through a lot of trouble imagining the mood and the tone of the film which gave it a rather authentic feel, this really is a plus as the film’s script is driven by its characters and its dialogue.

The script by Robinson had a clever blend of dark humor, light-hearted comedy (courtesy of Robert Jenkins) and even some sort of existential brooding. It builds the Kemp character into a sort of moral self-discovery as he ponders what is and what should be the right thing to do. I have to admit that some characters did have that somewhat cartoonish feel, but the direction was very careful to keep them grounded, and as a result, they felt believable and real. You get to know the characters through their interactions, they become the dialogue as the story is driven by the characters. It is a little hard to say, but really, I appreciated the way I was drawn into the scenes, slowly, as I see the characters grow within the script towards some sort of resolution.

                 Amber Heard and Johnny Depp in "The Rum Diary."

                Amber Heard as Chenault in "The Rum Diary."

                 Richard Jenkins as Lotterman in "The Rum Diary."

Johnny Depp is good as Kemp, and I do have to question that after his portrayal of Captain Jack Sparrow in “Pirates”, it seems like the actor just cannot get away from Rum. He is a very charismatic actor and he can indeed carry the film; but even an actor of his caliber cannot pull it off by himself. The supporting cast headed up by Rispoli and Ribisi managed to make a connection with the Kemp persona, and their interactions really felt natural. The trio just managed to form that chemistry, that I was entertained just by listening to their exchanges. “I’ll throw in the drug if you come with me to the bathroom..” was one of the scenes that just really made me laugh, along with that scene in the junk restaurant in the woods. Robinson did a good job balancing out the screenplay, as it never felt ‘preachy’ despite its theme of self-discovery and the road to moral principle. Surprisingly, Amber Heard just commanded attention; her portrayal of the sexy Chenault nearly stole the show, I could really sympathize how Kemp became enchanted of her. She was just so eye-catching and alluring.

                Giovanni Ribisi as Moberg in "The Rum Diary."

Michael Rispoli and EL Monstro in "The Rum Diary." Johnny Depp as Paul Kemp in "The Rum Diary."

Overall, I did enjoy “The Rum Diary”. It was well-intentioned and well-made but it felt a little incomplete. I feel that as soon as the story was just starting to get real interesting that the film stopped in its development; perhaps it was just me being unfamiliar with the book, but I really wanted more to happen in the film. It is a simple film but credibly executed as something about finding one’s conscience because of something very unexpected.

Recommended! [3 ½ Out of 5 Stars]

 Poster art for "The Rum Diary."


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November 08, 2011
I almost saw this one yesterday and ended up seeing In Time because some of the online reviews were iffy. But, I think I might have to have a Puerto Rico night in anticipation of my upcoming trip :) Dinner at Parada 22 and this movie....I also need a new book to read, so I might have to pick this one up. During the ads, Depp's Kemp character seemed to be reminiscent of his other HST character in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. Did you feel that to be the case?
November 08, 2011
That is a great idea! Parada 22 would hit the spot along with this movie. One day I will need to take a cruise out to Puerto Rico. As for Kemp, yes and no. It does seem rather inspired by that same one in "Fear", but there is a different feel to him since it is a sort of a prequel (of a sort). What did you think of In Time? I liked that one in some ways, but....(you know I reviewed it)
November 08, 2011
So yeah, I'm going to have to pick up this book and maybe see the movie after that ;p I liked it and am probably going to write a QT on it today ;p I'm going to read your review...
November 08, 2011
I've read his other works before, but not this. Nonetheless, I've been curious about this one, especially since I love Johnny Depp! I think I'm going to have to see this one. Thanks, Woo!
November 08, 2011
You would probably connect faster with this film than I did. It did start off a little slowly, but I liked the way it picked up the pace. Give it a rent one day, Dev.
October 31, 2011
Your overview is of some use to me, as I'm scheduled to view this on the morrow. As the film probably wouldn't benefit from a stringent adaptation, Heard hardly resembles Chenault as she's described in the book and the brutish, half-mad Yeamon is excised from the story entirely, I'm anticipating this as a quality period flick rather than the exacting tribute to Thompson's output and the events that inspired it that Gilliam's Fear and Loathing was. Thanks so much!
November 04, 2011
Thank you for the read!
October 29, 2011
The trailer made this look outrageous, but lately I haven't been in the right mood. I just want to watch horror movies, you know? But I'll probably give it a view once it hits DVD.
October 29, 2011
I know, I need to get my horror groove on. But I always seem to get diverted to see other movies. Give it a look, I think you'll like it since you also have a twisted sense of humor.
October 29, 2011
When you said "it seems like the actor just cannot get away from Rum" I had to laugh cause I thought the exact same thing when I first saw the preview....it sounds like you enjoyed this one pretty much; I can never get over how busy Depp is making so many movies one right after another and he's still capable of playing his different characters well. I want to see this one, and by the previews on TV and the pics you posted I could see there seemed to be good chemistry with Depp and Heard. Thanks for letting me know about your review; I enjoyed it!
October 29, 2011
Yeah, I know. Depp even admitted to being 'overpaid' in his movies. Heard was one of the major reasons why I enjoyed this movie.
October 29, 2011
..LOL yeah I bet!!
October 30, 2011
Heard is hot and has become mature since "Never Back Down". Hey, you like sci-fi? I dunno how you feel about Timberlake but give this a read...another new release!
October 29, 2011
Great write up WP, I'll wait for the rental.
October 29, 2011
thanks, man.
More The Rum Diary (2011 film) reviews
review by . March 15, 2012
posted in Movie Hype
*** 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 …
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.
review by . November 04, 2011
   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.
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About this movie


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 1992.-wikipedia.org

  • 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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