“The Rum Diary” is a rather uneventful film starring Johnny Depp reprising his role as a mostly-biographical character created by the famous journalist and author Hunter S. Thompson.
The film tells the story of Paul Kemp, a freelance writer and novelist, who finds himself writing for a failing newspaper in 1950s Puerto Rico.
I had great hopes for this film. I fully expected the same drug-infused antics and ravings that were a mainstay in “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas,” the other major motion picture based on a Thompson novel.
However, this film features a completely different version of the Thompson character. This makes sense based on the fact that this film takes place approximately 20 years earlier than “Fear and Loathing.”
Unfortunately, this film lacked the hilarity and twisted storyline that its predecessor had.
The film didn’t have any strong plot. It starts with Kemp becoming involved in a scheme for private investors who plot to buy up U.S. military land and turn it into a massive resort.
After a falling out with the mastermind of the scheme Hal Sanderson (played by Aron Eckhart), Kemp intends to expose the scam to the public.
However, the newspaper Kemp has been writing for collapses and ceases publishing before his story can be printed.
There are moments in the film that are very funny. A few choice scenes with Kemp and his sidekick Sala are completely hilarious. For the most part, however, it was a film that had a very weighty and serious nature.
Throughout the film, Kemp gets into some funny situations but they only act as momentary reprieves from the dreary situation he finds himself in.
Where “Fear and Loathing” had psychedelic drugs and the glamour of Las Vegas, “Rum Diary” had alcohol, poverty and the grime of 1950’s Puerto Rico.
The acting was a bright spot for the film. Johnny Depp has mastered the manic nature needed to play Hunter S. Thompson characters.
I am a big Thompson fan and hope to see a few of his other works brought to the silver screen, and if they are, I hope to see Depp portraying the man who invented Gonzo journalism.
This performance was actually subdued quite a bit in comparison with “Fear and Loathing.”
This is a testament to Depp as an actor. He portrays the younger and less bold character to perfection, even though he himself has become older and one of the boldest actors in Hollywood.
The supporting cast was good as well. Eckhart does a fair job of portraying the movies only real bad guy. I always envision him portraying a charming and sweet natured character.
In this film he stretches his range well. My favorite performance was by Giovani Ribisi.
He plays a character named Moburg, a man who represents complete and utter depravity in human form.
Moburg has turned into a man who has drank so much and taken so many different drugs that he has taken to wearing a filthy bath robe around and often enjoys sitting around listening to recordings of Nazi speeches.
In this character, Thompson’s voice is most evident. He had a rare talent for portraying wretchedness in characters.
The film was directed by Bruce Robinson. I enjoyed the imagery of the film. The time period was portrayed very well by the automobiles and the wardrobe.
For a story with such a lack of central plot, the film grabbed quite a bit of attention due to the often exotic and enticing scenery.
I also enjoyed how the characters always seemed like they were flustered and stifled by the heat of the Puerto Rican climate.
But as a whole, I was disappointed with this film. It could be that my expectations were slightly out of control.
Expecting anything to measure up to the masterpiece of “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas,” it’s just too much to ask.
The acting, as well as the detailed imagery, kept my interest and made the film fairly enjoyable.