The Rum Diary Movie Review – When Hunter S. Thompson wrote The Rum Diary in 1961 he surely didn’t think he’d have to wait 37 years to see it published. By the time the novel was released in 1998 Thompson had already achieved his cult-like status. The Rum Diary was likely released to capitalize on the release of the film adaptation of his 1971 novel Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, which starred Thompson acolyte Johnny Depp. Following the author’s 2005 suicide Depp has seemingly taken up the cause of promulgating Thompson’s work. After several missteps in getting the project off the ground principal photography of The Rum Diary began in Puerto Rico in 2009 with Amber Heard and Aaron Eckhart joining Depp to round out the cast.
Depp stars as Paul Kemp, a failed novelist-turned-journalist, who has just arrived in San Juan, Puerto Rico to write for the local paper. While clamoring for some grasp of his new locale he is embroiled in a land scheme spearheaded by Sanderson played aptly by Eckhart. Along the way he meets Chenault, Sanderson’s girlfriend portrayed quite earnestly by Heard. Before long the circumstances he’s found himself in drive Kemp to take dire measures. By the time the credits roll it’s easy to see how Thompson himself may have come to the idea of Gonzo journalism.
The drama is broken up by some very funny comedic moments that flow in and out of the narrative smoothly. The tropical location adds to the charm of the movie while Bruce Robinson’s direction brings out the tension in his well-written screenplay.
Depp is superb as the charming but troubled Kemp. He easily displays his characters uneasy mind through mannerisms and expression. Heard turns in a fine performance as Chenault in which she is equal parts seductive and vulnerable. Aaron Eckhart’s turn as the suave and scheming Sanderson displays his considerable talent. The cast is rounded out in fine fashion by Giovanni Ribisi, Michael Rispoli and Richard Jenkins all turning in great displays in solid supporting roles.
The Rum Diary is a fine film for fans of Thompson’s work and for those who enjoy Johnny Depp’s quirkier films. Those who’s interests lie with more commercial fare may not find much to enjoy from a movie best described as quirky. For those open to the wackier tales from Thompson’s clearly unique mind, The Rum Diary is definitely recommended.