The Rum Diary - 120m – R
Hunter S. Thompson is a writer that I have never really understood. Perhaps he speaks from a different age or perhaps I don’t use enough drugs to really get in touch with his message. This story was probably the most coherent of all of the movies that have been based on his work. This story was his first book but it was not published until later in his life. I really got the sense that this was his first character that received a call to arms to fight against corruption and people who abused power. As a movie it was not bad. I enjoyed seeing the younger version of Thompson; I think he bases his main characters on himself. I look back on it and I was surprised that it was a complete and understandable story. I liked the journey of the character but it did not speak to me as a viewer. This movie receives a yellow light.
Paul Kemp (Johnny Depp) is a new reporter at a small Puerto Rican newspaper. He is getting to know the politics of the island and also the paper. His new boss, Lotterman (Richard Jenkins), has him start out writing the daily horoscopes, but he gets involved with a local businessman by the name of Sanderson (Aaron Eckhart) and his girlfriend Chenault (Amber Heard). They are involved with the power players who are making money exploiting the locals. They want Kemp to write the travel brochures to bring tourists to a new resort they are building. During his stay on the island, he starts to learn how the people are mistreated and makes a choice to stand up to the people who are abusing the privilege they have been given.
The director, Bruce Robinson, does a good job of making the story come to life. He pays homage to Thompson’s book and does a good job of translating it to film. He has a good eye for keeping the focus on the actors, he lets them do their work. His brand of storytelling does not involve flashy tricks but he lets the scene and the actor blend in a natural flow of the individual scenes. When Kemp is exploring the poverty stricken areas of Puerto Rico, the scenes are not heavy with dialog but we see what Kemp is thinking in his reaction to what he sees. The problem with this movie is that the scenes don’t seem to blend together well. The parts are masterfully done but they seem to be blocked together poorly.
Thompson’s work has been hit or miss with readers. Either you love him or hate him: there seems to be no in-between. This is not like the Gonzo journalism of the previous films. This one is more of a story about a young man learning about who he is. This seems like a story of where he got his calling for his style of journalism. I am more interested in reading this story than his other books. This movie does peak my interest in reading more from him. I hope his books are not laced with LSD…
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One of the best lines in this movie is from Kemp’s drug hallucinations from a lobster. “Human beings are the only creatures on earth that claim a god and the only living thing that behaves like it hasn't got one.” It’s the line that sparks the voice of Ink and rage against the bastards of the world.
This movie leads off with a promise of a drug and alcohol induced romp very much like Thompson’s other films but does not indulge in he over the top and the WTF just happened story telling. I think that some fans of his might feel let down, but this story does not really lend itself to that kind style.
Another great scene is when Kemp’s roommate, Moburg (Giovanni Ribsi), trades his high powered hallucinogens for a quick look at his penis, he calmly asks. “Is it the clap?” Kemp replies, “It’s a standing ovation.” Sick and wrong but it gave me a giggle.
What movie have you been looking forward to and was let down, because it’s just not the same. This Thompson story was one unlike his previous films.