Director: Bruce Robinson
Starring: Johnny Depp, Michael Rispoli, Amber Heard, Aaron Eckheart
Release Date: Out Now
The Rum Diary has had a troubled history. Hunter S. Thompson, the generation-defining gonzo journalist, wrote the novel in the sixties, but didn’t see it published until the Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas film release in 1998. Since then, the rights for an adaptation have been thrown around more than the term “going forward” in a politician’s speech. However, throughout all of these changeovers, there was always a key player from Fear and Loathing backing the project: Johnny Depp.
During the decade of prolonged development, it seemed that the project would be another cult film. Thankfully for the masses, director Bruce Robinson (Withnail and I) seemed keen to make this Thompson adaptation more accessible. The result is an easy film that while enjoyable, won’t linger in your mind once the lights come up.
The story follows Paul Kemp (Johnny Depp), a journalist in Puerto Rico with a lot of free time and a penchant for “complementary” hotel miniatures. The film hops from comedy, to romance, to Thompson-esque alcohol-fuelled antics with such frequency that it’s hard to nail down its genre. Very occasionally it raises the issue of a two-tiered society in 1960s Puerto Rico, a theme that could have been really well developed, but ends up being another undercooked element of an ultimately dizzying movie.
While the film may lack focus, you’ll still enjoy each story line as it ebbs and flows throughout the runtime. The setting provides one of the most aesthetically pleasing landscapes on film. The excellent camera work only hammers home the beauty of this photogenic island, making it difficult not to sit back and admire some of the panning shots.
The surprise of this film is Michael Rispoli (Kick-Ass), playing Depp’s companion and partner in crime. He provides some of the best gags and grounds the film with the friendship shared between himself and Depp. Depp is charming as ever, playing a considerably mellower character than that portrayed in Fear and Loathing. The supporting cast all do an excellent job of setting up an environment where Depp can do what he does best: enjoy himself and let us all watch.
The plot, though a tad frenetic, keeps you engaged. It’s only really lacking focus in the final segment just before the credits roll.
In a Nutshell: This isn’t a must-see, but give it a chance; you’ll like it, you just won’t love it.