A Bad Buzz: The Rum Diary Review!!!

Bitter, Bitter Balcony, Movie Review, The Rum Diary 2011Bruce RobinsonBruce RobinsonJohnny Depp, Aaron EckhartHunter S. Thompson (novel) Bitter,Bitterometer,meter The Rum Diary(2011)

“The Rum Diary,” is the pseudo-biographical film based on the “lost” novel by the papa of gonzo journalism himself, the late Hunter S. Thompson. The book, finally published in 1998, chronicles the early days of the iconic writer’s career, following the misadventures of American journalists in the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico. The misleading advertising showcased “The Rum Diary” as another wild ride à la Terry Gilliam’s LSD-fueled opus “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.” However, this adaptation of Thompson’s inebriated hi-jinks, directed by the semi-retired Bruce Robinson (“Withnail and I”) strives to present the idealistic, noble side of the White Buffalo. Here, Thompson (under the pseudonym Paul Kemp) is revealed not only for his enticement of booze and hallucinogens, but as a harsh critic of corporate greed and social injustice in the Flower Power generation.

Taking place in the stunning Caribbean jewel that’s Puerto Rico in 1960, freelance journalist Kemp (Johnny Depp) lands a job at the San Juan Star, the sole newspaper in the island written in English. He’s hired by frustrated Editor-in-Chief Lotterman (Richard Jenkins) to bring a fresh voice to the struggling newspaper while avoiding the company of overindulged drunkard journalists Sala (Michael Rispoli) and Moburg (Giovanni Ribisi). As Kemp delves into the exotic Culture of the island, he becomes aware of the vast poverty of the American Commonwealth. Kemp’s journalistic integrity is met with red flags by Lotterman, who wants the young reporter to embellish fluff articles for neglectful American tourists.

As Kemp is reduced to writing the daily horoscope, an ambitious and arrogant land developer named Sanderson (Aaron Eckhart returning to his well-groomed, sleaze-ball ways) attempts to court Kemp to help him positively spin his involvement in Puerto Rico to the public. While Kemp tentatively joins Sanderson’s scheme, the writer becomes enamored with Sanderson’s finance Chenault (Amber Heard), who Kemp encounters on the beach like a mermaid-like apparition. Kemp, now compromised by his deal with Sanderson, finds an adversary that not only holds the girl he craves, but also the bleak future the locals face with the potential development of another banal Resort. Still, with the camaraderie of his mad reporter pals, the experiences Kemp gathers in this Tropical adventure will help him turn into the sarcastic, sternly observant writer that would revolutionize American journalism forever.

“The Rum Diary” is Johnny Depp’s love letter to his dearly departed friend Hunter S. Thompson. The project went through several schedule delays and re-castings before it landed on Bruce Robinson’s hands. I wholeheartedly admire Depp’s passion in brining this novel to the big screen. I also believe Robinson did his best to rust off a twenty year directing hiatus to helm an at times jazzy vision of Thompson’s work. The film’s most hauntingly beautiful scenes find a great balance between Thompson’s sharp words, Depp’s bewildered gestures, and Robinson’s meditative composition (the lobster tank scene during Kemp’s trip is memorable in its poetic subtlety).

Unfortunately, Robinson’s screenplay fails to match the same rhythm his directing intention suggested. “The Rum Diary” is a clumsy film that can’t find an identity as a satire, idealist drama, or romantic fable. Because of this poor screenplay, Robinson’s direction is mostly uneven, with the humor feeling off-base and the drama just coming up flat. Two decades of not making movies can take a toll, and for some of the good things Robinson does for the film, most of his effort in “The Rum Diary” is as incoherent as a drunk who goes all over himself.

As for the cast, while Ribisi should be credited in transforming into a filthy, unintelligible pervert masquerading as a journalist, lead Depp and sidekick Rispoli never seem to find the chemistry to carry the film. Overall, the performances, including Depp, lack the spark the strangely intriguing characters Thompson created deserved. Sadly, “The Rum Diary” is disappointing, and proof that some love letters are better left unread.


Official website:
The Rum Diary

The Rum Diary2011Bruce RobinsonBruce RobinsonJohnny Depp, Aaron EckhartHunter S. Thompson (novel)  The Rum Diary2011Bruce RobinsonBruce RobinsonJohnny Depp, Aaron EckhartHunter S. Thompson (novel)  The Rum Diary2011Bruce RobinsonBruce RobinsonJohnny Depp, Aaron EckhartHunter S. Thompson (novel)  The Rum Diary2011Bruce RobinsonBruce RobinsonJohnny Depp, Aaron EckhartHunter S. Thompson (novel)  The Rum Diary2011Bruce RobinsonBruce RobinsonJohnny Depp, Aaron EckhartHunter S. Thompson (novel) 

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