Skip to comments.Film Review: The Rum Diary
Posted on 10/24/2011 6:53:00 AM PDT by cll
Its Puerto Rico in 1960, and Paul Kemp (Johnny Depp, actually playing the young Hunter S. Thompson) makes his reeling, booze-soaked arrival to work at the local newspaper. Various gringo residents, from his beyond-cynical editor Lotterman (Richard Jenkins) to the papers photographer Bob (Michael Rispoli), who becomes his roommate, and ruthless big-shot land developer Sanderson (Aaron Eckhart) try to school him in the island ways to his advantage. But Kemp has always unsteadily made his own choices, while scrabbling to find his true voice as a real writer, as well as love in the form of Sandersons tempting girlfriend, Chenault (Amber Heard).
If glamour, wit and surprising adventure are what thinking souls crave from cinema, The Rum Diary delivers them in spades and is therefore all the more welcome in these mentally challenged movie days. From the opening shots of an airplane wafting into Puerto Rico with Dean Martins jovial pipes crooning Volare, the film does exactly what that song says. It both flies and sings with a marvelously tonic sense of fun. Bruce Robinsons direction and script have a breezy yet funky elegance, with an intoxicating embrace of raffishness that places you squarely, blissfully in this particular place and time. The adroitly diverting screenplay is gorgeously littered with Thompsons juicy dialogue, much of it in the form of hilariously overripe putdowns. (Example: Bob describes being in a place like Puerto Rico too long as like [#@!*&^%] somebody and then finding them still under you.)
Its visually a paradisical, palm tree-swept joy, with every colorful period detail right, from Chenaults flirty cocktail dresses to Sandersons nifty red Chevy convertible, one of the great movie cars of all time. Paul and Chenault share a heady ride in it which recalls some of the most deliriously swoony film moments of the past, like the similar sexy car capers of Hitchcocks To Catch a Thief and King Vidors Ruby Gentry. And, on the more dangerous side, theres an exhilaratingly scary but just as fun chase when Paul and Bob try to make their escape from a gringo-loathing cantina.
Depp, mercifully released from that listingly eccentric pirate he makes such big bucks from, brings his honed deadpan comedic sense and also a true movie stars romantic yearning to Paul, the best part hes had in years. Like all the actors, he happily spits out his funny, mordant lines and is one ecstatically happyif unsteadydrunk, with his insane consumption of multitudinous hotel-room bar rum-minis. But the glazed fog in his eyes lifts completely when he gazes upon the irresistibly sexy Chenault with the same kind of reverent yearning as when Bogie looked at Bacall. Hes also one of the few movie stars with chops cerebral enough to convincingly play a writer.
Depps drunkenness is as nothing compared to Giovanni Ribisi, who plays Moberg, star journalist and alcoholic of the newspaper. With his jerky, etiolated gesticulations and sputtering, choked-out speech, he is one prime original eccentric, fond of the jaw-dropping moment as when he exhales 400-proof rum into a match, instantly becoming a potent human flame-thrower.
The gruffly ingratiating Rispoli almost steals the show, with his tobacco-seared voice, cynical yet game, laid-back bonhomie and easy comic timing, making him the best movie sidekick in years. Eckhart seems to enjoy himself mightily, playing the richest jerk imaginable, and with a toupee on his head like a dead gray animal act, Jenkins has a cantankerous authority amusingly reminiscent of William S. Burroughs.
I’ll drink (Don Q) to that!
A more complete review:
Johnny Depp explores sex and journalism in Puerto Rico
By Bob Thompson, Postmedia News October 19, 2011
LOS ANGELES When Johnny Depp makes a commitment, he follows through. Depp promised his good friend Hunter S. Thompson he’d do a movie version of Thompson’s novel, The Rum Diary, and he has.
Sadly, the renowned gonzo journalist committed suicide in 2005, so he wont be able to comment on the results when the film version opens Oct. 28.
But Depp is hopeful hed approve, after the actor initially persuaded the writer to publish his unpublished book in 1998, nearly two decades after he wrote it.
The beauty with Hunter was that there was a very profound element of trust between us, said Depp during a recent Beverly Hills hotel interview.
Of course, they became best buddies when Depp was researching his role of the quasi-fictionalized Raoul Duke in the movie version of Thompsons Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, which was released in 1998.
In The Rum Diary, the Bruce Robinson-directed comedy-drama based on Thompsons book, Depp is the pseudo-Thompson character, Paul Kemp. Hes a burnt-out New York reporter who escapes to the Caribbean island of Puerto Rico to land a job at the San Juan Star in the early 1960s.
When Kemp arrives, he meets a desperately defeated editor (Richard Jenkins) and a newsroom full of oddballs and misfits, including a jaded photographer (Michael Rispoli) and a spaced-out writer (Giovanni Ribisi).
When a corrupt land developer (Aaron Eckhart) tries to co-opt Kemp into writing some favourable stories about a dubious hotel development, Kemps anti-establishment attitude kicks in, even as hes falling for the crooks sexy girlfriend (Amber Heard).
What might surprise fans is that The Rum Diarys Kemp-as-Thompson comes across as an even-tempered, though often inebriated, passive observer to all the craziness around him. And thats not a coincidence.
Well, the one side that sticks out to me about Hunter is the side that not a lot of people recognized or had the opportunity to see, which was that he was a southern gentleman, said Depp of the writer born in Louisville, Kentucky. He was very chivalrous, very polite, very giving.
Mind you, there are glimpses in the movie of the familiar tripped-out, alternative fellow whom readers came to celebrate through his Fear and Loathing books and his many self-involved magazine pieces.
These other aspects of Hunter sort of come through in The Rum Diary, agreed Depp. Force of nature is a great description, because he really was. And he had trouble with authority all his life.
But with the book (and in movie), he was trying to discover exactly who he was going to be, and where he was going to go.
However, the initial concern was finding a director who could manage that difficult tone. Before the writer died at the age of 67, Depp and Thompson discussed potential directors for The Rum Diary. And in the great tradition of radical, counter-culture thinking, Depp said that they had agreed on English filmmaker Bruce Robinson.
Robinson had earned a 1985 Oscar nomination for The Killing Fields script, and won raves for his writer-director efforts on 1987s Withnail & I and 1989s How to Get Ahead in Advertising, but he had dropped out of the Hollywood scene after some miserable studio experiences in the early 1990s.
Gentle persuasion by Depp, a fan of both Withnail & I and How to Get Ahead in Advertising, put Robinson back in the game to write and direct the less flamboyant Thompson vision.
He was the only one that I could think of, and that Hunter could think of, who could even come close to grabbing hold of Hunters spirit, said Depp.
Cautious at first, Robinson eventually delved into the challenge on the Puerto Rico set, impressed by Depp, and the enthusiasm of the cast and crew shooting a low-budget movie.
I wanted to do a raging, non-joke comedy, and (Depp) got that, said Robinson. He also understood that I wanted him to be like Cary Grant in this pre-Hunter time.
In the end, Depp wants The Rum Diary movie to pay tribute to his mate.
So what does he miss most about him and his assorted jags?
Everything, said Depp, smiling. I miss the 3 a.m. phone calls, asking me if Im familiar with the hairy black tongue disease. I miss sitting there talking, getting him riled up about some sports event or a team, or something.
Even when the actor became a rich movie star after 2003s first Pirates of the Caribbean movie (which earned him an Oscar nomination), they remained close.
He understood the game, the racket that I was in, for sure, said Depp. But he always felt that was, you know, my day job.
So when things started, yeah, getting a little larger scale, I guess, he had a big concern. But he was very proud at the same time.
Would Depp dare to guess what kind of review Thompson would give The Rum Diary movie?
I think first he would come up with something slightly sarcastic and a little bit cutting, Depp said. But I think he would have been very happy with it.
© Copyright (c) Postmedia News
I don’t see very many movies in the theatre but I might go check this one out.
My husband and I will see that next weekend, along with Take Shelter.
We saw Moneyball last weekend, and it was quite good. It’s worth checking out, if only for the performance of Jonah Hill.
“...he exhales 400-proof rum into a match...”
Well, we are talkin’ a film reviewer here.
Not exactly a finalist for ...well...anything useful.
I didn’t realize that Depp had been instrumental in getting Rum Diaries published. I have not read it. I read F&L in Las Vegas and The Great Shark Hunt. I actually want to see this one.
Now to find movie theater coupons.
With a bemused grin on his face, my father told me that stuff isn't good for little boys to drink.
The weird thing is that from that point on, liquor had no big mystery for me so later when my friends were boasting about getting drinks on the sly, I didn't see the big deal in it. Our liquor cabinet was always available but I rarely indulged. Maybe that rum incident kept me from ever becoming an alcoholic.
Had just about given up on Hollywood.
Paranormal Activity 3 opened at 50 million plus this weekend.
The moguls have the nonsense loving sheeple pegged,nice to be thrown a bone like the Rum Diary once in a while.
Sounds veddy good, I’ll wait for it to come to my drive-in.