The Rum Diary

8 Jul

Director: Bruce Robinson (2011)

Johnny Depp in a Hunter S Thompson film? What is this fresh madness? Madness indeed but Depp and Hunter S go together like a journalist and alcoholism, like South America and blow, like cigars and fedoras. Depp was made to play these damaged and wonderful characters from the warped mind of everyone’s favourite gonzo journo.
The Rum Diary is adapted from the book of the same name, following the trials of Paul Kemp (Johnny Depp), a writer who has embraced the all too common affliction of a writer in that he cannot sell any books. Kemp moves to Puerto Rico after getting a job at a shitty ex-pat newspaper that is about to go under. Helping him learn the ropes, Kemp meets Sala (Michael Rispoli), becoming fast drinking friends and soon to be roommates in exactly the kind of sweaty apartment a downbeat, impoverished, addled journo would enjoy in Puerto Rico. Fellow writer at the newspaper and sporadic roommate is the destroyed Moberg (Giovani Ribisi), a man who gives alcohol abuse a whole new meaning but somehow cannot be fired. They are an errant bunch.
In his orientation to this strange new land, Kemp finds himself in the company of the stunningly beautiful Chenault (Amber Heard) who turns out to be the fiancé of Kemp’s new friend, Sanderson (Aaron Erkhart), a realtor who takes a shine to Kemp and wants to take him under his corrupted wing. Chenault enraptures Kemp, providing the ultimate blonde and curvaceous distraction as Kemp flitters away his job and fails to smell the rat in the all-too-tempting deal Sanderson offers him as part of a real-estate scam.
Sure, The Rum Diary does make a better book but as a film, Robinson hands the reins over to Depp who once again brings Thompson’s characters off the page in such a way that you could almost believe they were written for Depp himself. The beautiful location of Puerto Rico, even at its most dirty and corrupt, provides an ideal playground for Kemp and his merry men, entertaining with enough sweaty salsa clubs, cock fighting and rum to fuel the imaginations and creativities of even the worst writers. Thankfully these experiences served Hunter S Thompson better when it came to selling books than his on page alter egos.


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