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I'm a huge Hunter S Thompson fan, but I was feeling very weary of this
film since it has been shelved for almost a year now. I attended the
world premiere last night, and I can report with absolute sincerity
that if you loved HST's work, this will not disappoint.
The one problem many die hard fans of the book may have is with the character of Sanderson. In the book Paul Kemp and Sanderson represent the dueling persona's of Hunter, one being a cutthroat athletic type, the other being the booze-hound anti-authoritarian. In this film, Johnny Depp plays more to the character being a young HST and combines the characteristics of both into Kemp. Some may have a problem with this, but the movie is stronger for it as you are only rooting for the protagonist while giving the story a strong antagonist, a necessity in filmmaking.
In my eyes, this is Bruce Robinson's best work on screen to date, Johnny Depp is absolutely awe-inspiringly believable as a very young and constrained Hunter, and the cast could not have been more dead on. I'll be seeing this several more times in the theaters in the coming months.
It's important to remember why this movie was made. It is for Hunter S.
Thompson. That was really Johnny Depp's main focus. His goal is never
to make the number one movie. He doesn't want to be a box office star.
He wants to make movies that mean something to him and that is exactly
what he did with The Rum Diary.
With that said, he made a beautiful film for his late friend. He played Hunter S. Thompson so wonderfully and stayed true to his character. Johnny honored his friend in the best way that he could, and did a phenomenal job in my opinion.
Aside from the film's purpose, if I had gone to see this with no knowledge of it's back story, I still would have enjoyed it. It was funnier than I was expecting and there was romance throughout. I was definitely interested the entire two hours. It is worth the price of a ticket because as usual, Johnny Depp delivered.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
If you have had the pleasure of reading the great book from Hunter S.
Thompson, "The Rum Diary" this film is not for you. And even if you did
not read the book, this film lacks drama, cinematic style, character
arcs, a hooking intro, and satisfying end. I am not sure if the
writer/director Bruce Robinson spent the time to really READ the book.
It's a DARK comedy, not a lighthearted love story. Hunter S. Thompson
(played by Johnny Depp) was very depressed at the time, getting
wasting, working minimal amounts, and having sex with any Puerto Rican
girl that was interested. None of this was portrayed accurately in the
One key factor that Bruce Robinson screwed up was eliminating the character of Yemon, which was crucial in the book. Instead this Robinson combined three characters into two, which isn't true to the book and does not work on screen. Another factor missed was the bar Al's which played a big role in the book. This was the local bar in which all the works at the newspaper went to everyday and got wasted at. Besides the two lead characters in the film, all the workers were alcoholics and Robinson failed at exposing the working environment of the newspaper.
The ending of the book was tremendous; the boss Lotterman has a heart attack and dies when he thinks one of the employees was going to beat him up. Instead of using this great ending handed to him, Bruce Robinson steered away from that and it fell flat at the end.
All in all, when adapting a book like "The Rum Diary," you have to stay true to the heart (balls) of the story. Bruce Robinson missed the dark tone of the book, did not develop the characters and the environment to its fullest extent. On top of that did a terrible job of exposing the beautiful landscape of Puerto Rico, shooting everything much too tight not allowing the viewer to get a true feel of the surroundings and native people. Instead of wasting your ten bucks at the cinema sit down relax and read an amazing book by Hunter S. Thompson, "The Rum Diary."
I adored the novel, The Rum Diary and as an aid worker I related to
many of the character's struggles. Although the film does stray quite a
bit from the book itself, I think it's a perfect homage to Hunter S
Thompson. The language still reeks of his Gonzo fury writing and
manages to transport the audience into a drunken rant, as well as
secretly educating them on the struggles of a free press. It had me
laughing out loud on more than one occasion, as well as the packed out
cinema that I viewed it with.
I rated this movie a 9 and the last film I rated that high was The Shining. I personally think this film was perfect. The leading actress/actors were perfect and the supporting cast phenomenal, especially Giovanni Ribisi. The only problem with this film in my opinion is that if you are not a fan of the gibbering, artistically nervous tone of most of Thompson's work, this film may be too heavy for you. Although it's easier to follow that Fear and Loathing (which scrupulously stuck to the dialogue from the novel Fear and loathing), many would find the dialogue bizarre.
Personally I loved every minute of this film and think it's already truly underrated.
The film begins with main character Paul Kemp (Johnny Depp) waking up
in a luxurious hotel room in Puerto Rico after a heavy night of
drinking. After chomping down a few aspirin, Kemp stumbles into the
editors office of the San Juan Star and is given a dead end writing
job. After a few chance encounters, Kemp becomes the center of intrigue
and corruption while consuming copious amounts of alcohol.
"The Rum Diary" was originally a novella from the twisted mind of Hunter S. Thompson an eccentric journalist and novelist who in addition to smoking, snorting, injecting, drinking every drug, alcohol and carcinogen known to man, managed to change the face of journalism by calling it as he sees it. His writing can repel and enchant with equal measure and has a breakneck spontaneity which is rivaled by its frazzled incoherency.
Incoherency would be the best word to describe this film. The story lacks any kind of focus jumping from a love story, a corrupt land deal, drunken antics, workplace politics and racial tensions. Watching "The Rum Diary" was like talking to a drunk grad student; little flashes of genius may linger but after what seems like four hours you realize you're talking to a drunken idiot and looking for the door.
Thompson's other work adapted to screen shares a similar inconsistency but say what you will about "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas" at least it was interesting. Director Bruce Robinson seems unsure behind the camera trying desperately to balance themes and while Terry Gilliam threw spaghetti at the wall to see what sticks, Robinson compensates by drawing out its screen time and keeping the camera-work and editing as dull and uninspiring as possible.
The films only saving grace is the inclusion of Giovanni Ribisi as a cirrhosis addled, syphilitic cohort who takes LSD while listening to records of Nazi propaganda. His arguments with the Star's head editor (Richard Jenkins) provide some of the few precious moments of humor.
The epilogue appears while Johnny Depp sails into the horizon explaining that while its the end of the story "...its the beginning of another." I would have liked to have seen the other story. At least by then the sardonic wit of Thompson was finally present.
Rum Diary (2011)
If you're looking for the craziness of later Hunter S. Thompson, you'll find shreds of it here. In a way this is a more cogent movie than say "Fear and Loathing " but it's also a bit prosaic beneath the wilder stuff that peppers the surface. Johnny Depp stars and runs the show in his usual strong if uninspired way as a new, hard-drinking reporter with a failing English language newspaper in Puerto Rico.
There is a true surface here that's pretty amazing--the cars, the low down rot of the apartments, the racism between the rich white Americans and the indigenous Puerto Ricans. The depth you might expect and want here is slim, however, even though all the pieces are in play for a great drama--a charming troubled writer in a land filled with prejudice and violence and great natural beauty. It pushes the clichés too hard, and it's generally agreed (even by Thompson) that the material is weak and "rambling." The movie doesn't rearrange it enough to make it work.
You can in a way watch this for those surfaces, if you don't need too much more. There are several secondary characters who do their best to be a bit insane, including Giovanni Ribisi as a drugged out waif of a reporter, something like what Thompson himself might have become later in life. (See of course the Depp in the imperfect 1998 "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas" for a sense of the famous freewheeling selfish addled sometimes brilliant Thompson.)
The director here also adapted Thompson's book and if he gets the credit for the nice ambiance of the film he also gets the burden of how clunky, choppy, and sometimes slow it is, even with such exciting material. It's not a horror, it's watchable, but you'll flag here and there. Even the end, without giving a thing away, is a bit deflating.
Plot Summary Now if your the sort of person that needs a definitive
story line and thick plot to enjoy a film then this probably isn't for
you. Its more a 'fly on the wall' view of a young journalists struggles
in a failing newspaper. Paul Kemp(Depp) is a young man trying to make
his way in a new place, making new friends and enemy's along the way.
What I thought of it I wasn't sure what I would think of this film, I new it has some great actors, such as Johnny Depp and Giovanni Ribisi, but the concept of the film was a strange one. I was pleasantly surprised, the director Bruce Robinson has done a great job with this film, which was always going to be a very tough job being adapted from a novel by Hunter S Thompson and technically having next to no strong plot.
The film itself is stunning, the locations are amazing and well shot, and the editing style and shots work brilliantly with the type of film and more importantly with Johnny Depp, who has a massive screen presence in everything he does, including 'The Rum Diary'.
This film has everything I want to see in a good movie, strong characters, great sets and brilliant comedy, along with meaning. It really makes you think about society and life nowadays and how primarily, nothing has changed in the way the world goes round and the sort of corruption and manipulation that still goes on today all around us, as it did back in the fifties, only less obviously.
On a lighter note, this film is hilarious and great to watch more than once, there is something rather satisfying about watch a man drink huge amounts of high octane rum and have to deal with the consequences the next morning, something that makes you happy its not only you.
Summary In all I thought this was a very enjoyable film for anyone to watch and have a good laugh at while loving everything about the characters. The acting is scintillating and exciting.
I highly recommend this film to all, one to watch ..... 7/10 Stars*
The Rum Diary is a drama conjoined with elements of playful humour,
based on the self entitled novel by Hunter S. Thompson. The film boasts
one of the most critically acclaimed actors Johnny Depp, who is joined
by other noticeable stars such as Aaron Eckhart (The Dark Knight),
Giovanni Ribisi (Gone In 60 Seconds) and upcoming beauty Amber Heard.
Depp himself is familiar with Thompson when incorporating his novel
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas onto the big screen in 1998. With this
in mind we were certain to expect elements of surrealism with maybe the
odd drug usage now and then. The story is set in the 1950's and follows
Depp through the character of Paul Kemp who moves to Puerto Rico as a
journalist who is in search of work, a good story and possibly
something more. With his new job comes new friendships, utter
absurdity, vast amounts of alcohol all topped off with a blonde
The Rum Diary displays beautiful visual strategies in stages throughout the narrative. Being based on the island of Puerto Rico the camera work certainly fetishises the beauty of the island in the same way in which beauty Chenault (Amber herd) is captured. Her blonde hair and blue eyes offer the same satisfaction as long stretching beaches and deep blue oceans. The visual strategies are very creative and often juggle between states of mind that Kemp and others alike are under. This being most apparent in a scene between Kemp and co-worker Sala, when experiencing an unknown drug, which is taken as eye drops. Similar visuals between this scene and ones in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas can be matched, and anyone who is familiar to this film knows that experiences of intoxication are to be had. The hazy and slow motion camera work have been closely thought out to create these effects over us, the audience, as we are able to be a part of these actions.
One thing that I have been highly impressed with is the script itself; people have mentioned that The Rum Diary has not lived up to expectations and could have been better. However, this is not my personal opinion and I will offer a different outlook on the matter. My expectations of the film were not high due to these reviews but I am an individual who likes to make my own assumptions. The storyline offered, in my opinion, intriguing characters that all offer special characteristics in the narrative. They have been well thought of and are strong and understood rather than being weak or pointless. Moberg, played by Giovanni Ribisi, is a violent, black mailing, alcoholic who works in the newspaper with Kemp and Sala but rarely shows up to work and on the odd occasion he does he is drunk. The character is built to represent the pointlessness of the newspaper and seems to have worked out what Kemp has yet to learn already. His far fetched logic and actions all add up to a comic effect in the story which present light relief to a dramatic storyline. Scenes involving Voodoo witches and Nazi uniforms add to the surreal yet humorous conventions The Rum Diary offers.
As I mentioned, my expectations of The Rum Diary weren't at all particularly high but because of this aspect I think I enjoyed the spectacle more and was pleasantly surprised. The storyline keeps on going and I was never left with the feeling of it dragging on but left wanting more, which the film could have easily done without becoming numb. The characters are entertaining as well as fresh and the surreal aspects certainly are not typical in everyday Hollywood blockbusters. The film is defiantly worth watching in terms of its originality as well as the comical moments and strong storyline.Defiantly a film worth seeing and remembering. You don't have to be under the influence to enjoy this ride
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
By the film's intentional anti-climax we learn that Hunter S. Thompson,
who wrote THE RUM DIARY about his stint as a journalist in Puerto Rico
in 1960, would go onto better things, taking on all the "bastards" he
let slip by in his youth.
The problem is, there's none in this movie worth troubling over, or for the audience to root against. Which means Johnny Depp's Paul Kemp (Thompson with a fake name) has nothing for an audience to root for: other than he's a popular actor that played a pirate who loved rum, and so does this character. (Every time Depp mentions drinking, he's practically winking at the audience.)
Doing the same Walter Cronkite mumble from FEAR AND LOATHING IN LAS VEGAS, Johnny's performance is so low-key it hardly registers at all. His porky photographer sidekick Sala (Michael Rispoli) has more interesting and memorable qualities since he's sloppy and somewhat humorous. But in this film, there's a lack of anything meaningful beneath the surface... which is an existential odyssey misadventure, sort of... yet it sporadically plants a political flag; but other than clips of Nixon, or shots of poor people being exploited, there's nothing substantial to hold onto.
The "plot" has Kemp hired as a journalist at a fledgling Puerto Rico newspaper, with the task of making the country seem like an accessible tourist trap, and then conned by a millionaire to be his propagandist a man who seems nice at first, but has his eyes on turning the gorgeous exterior into a real estate landmine. He has a sexy girlfriend who Kemp lusts after, leading to a brief romance more lacking in chemistry than the film does purpose.
As a Thompson fan, and having read his posthumous novel, it's a understandably difficult work to base a movie on. Making it that much more annoying when cinematic clichés like the scruffy underdogs battling the greedy rich guys, or a drug trip that too easily propels a creative edge are shoved at the screen: turning a subtle book never intended for publication into a ponderous film trying way too hard to make a point: whatever that might be.
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I have read the book and this movie holds true to the voice that
Thompson writes with - this is what makes the movie works. Depp's role,
unsurprisingly, mimics his portrayal of Hunter in Fear and Loathing
(only with less drugs, not counting alcohol).
The movie can, realistically, be summed up in one "revelation" Depp's character has with a rather unusual counterpart. Throughout the film we see examples of the opulent lifestyle of few and downtrodden livings of the many.
What Depp confides with his "friend", allows us to use what we have learned up to that point in the movie and chew on for the remainder of the movie, is this - the banks hold the wealth while leaving us (and the starving children) to stare at empty brass plates hanging on their front doors. Whether you agree with it or not, this is not a stretch to compare with the "occupy" movement settling into America and around Europe today.
This movie is good. Much like the original book, this movie doesn't try to entertain the viewer; it allows the viewer to sit back and follow along as one man experiences a lifetime of ups and downs in a matter of weeks. And be prepared to go out for a drink afterward, you'll need it.
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