By: Miles Baxter
Why do we see movies like Rum Diary? Are we provoked by the thought of some psychedelic, rum drunken romp through Puerto Rico? If you’re like, well, anyone who is aware of Hunter S. Thompson really, then most likely you were. And if you were one of these people, then you’ll be the ones going home the most disappointed.
The main problem is that while portrayed as an equally bizarre to rival Fear and Loathing, what is presented is a reasonably normal story of an alcoholic writer named Kemp (Depp) getting pulled into an illegal real estate scheme as he searches for his true writing voice. A story like this having two feet in reality should never be seen as a cause for negativity. The problem herein lays with the marketing.
What we actually find in the Rum Diary is a story that achieves some level of honest interest, only to let it fade slowly away.
The problem is that with a failing newspaper, a shady real estate deal, and promiscuous mystery woman who turns out to no ones surprise to be trouble, our concerns are picked up and thrown around so much that by the end we have little left to give. The story seems to be forcing itself in so many directions that it doesn’t seem to actually move forward, and by the final epiphany of Kemp, it’s hard to feel just as excited towards his enlightenment.
Some great Hunter S. Thompsonesque dialogue does pop up throughout the movie, which is always welcome and marks the most interesting element of this movie, that being the search for his voice.
The fact is its great to see a drunken Depp smoking cigars, amidst talks of Nixon and communism in a late 50’s Puerto Rico, while his writer partner rambles ideologies at him and pulls him into trouble. A great moment involves a drug-induced religious thought about a lobster as Depp eyes it with pity and a deep envy.
Having never read the book, I couldn’t say anything about its accuracy. What I do know is that Rum Diary doesn’t have quite enough good to cover the bad.
It’s possible that the whole thing falls apart without some rum in your body.