24 Feb 2013

The Rum Diary

Hunter S. Thompson was a crazy journalist and writer, most commonly known for Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. This film is an adaptation of his first book The Rum diary

 Except for the manner of his passing I have always liked Hunter  S. Thompson, his crazy style of writing, his characters and his general take on the world. To me Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas is the sort of like the party I always wanted to go to in your 20's, but then you end up in somebodies kitchen drinking Merlot and suffering through a difficult conversation with a politics student who seemed attractive one and a half glasses ago. But there you are I suppose, I guess I was always more a pint person over a pill person.


Novelist Paul Kemp (Johnny Depp) takes a job in Puerto Rico with a struggling local newspaper. He arrives to find a Lotterman (Richard Jenkins) bewigged and cynical editor, Sala (Michael Rispoli), a head photographer who fights roosters in his spare time, and  Molberg (Giovanni Ribisi), the local crime reporter who drinks ethanol and listens to Adolf Hitler.

Welcome to  Puerto Rico.

Kemp meets up with Sanderson (Aaron Eckhart) who offers him an insight into the reality of life in Puerto Rico in the 1960s, and an opportunity to make a great deal of money. The only two things holding Kemp back is his conscience and that fact he has fallen in love with Sanderson's girl friend Chenault(Amber Heard).

Ensue crazy rum fuelled hijinx!

The story is what you expect from Hunter S. Thompson, booze, drugs, politics,  crazy characters and a sharp and unpopular insight into the realities of life. The story plunges from a rum fuelled debauch, to poignant scenes of poverty, to a scathing example of American capitalism in the 60's.  Sounds mad and it is, but it is highly entertaining and also fascinating. There is an adage amongst writers, "write what you know." Thompson himself travelled from New York to San Juan in 1960 to write for an ill-fated sports newspaper, and you can tell that he has borrowed form real life in his portrayal of the characters and the situation Kemp finds himself in.

I really enjoyed the story and the writing, and  found myself laughing out loud at the sheer insanity of it all. My favourite was from Molberg;

"By day she drives a garbage truck, but by night she is a Hermaphroditic Oracle of Death!"

Johnny Depp, who was a personal friend of Hunter S. Thompson, and after this novel was rediscovered after Thompson's death, he had it published. he produced and starred in the film. His friends work was obviously important to him. His performance was good, Depp has the capacity to switch and change from tripping on LSD to being a leading man with the vivacious Amber Heard (you might know her as the hot neighbour in  Zombieland), to walking the back alleys of  Puerto Rico. With the exception of young miss Heard (who is talented, but not to the same level), it is a cast of talented character actors. Ribisi steals pretty much every scene he is in whether he speaks or not. 

This is not a film for everyone, I imagine that many will want your typical narrative, good guys, bad guys, and a hero saving the day. If you want that go find the Bourbe identity, and that's the Ludicrous Matt Damon one, not the original. But if you want a little crazy, spiced with 60's politics, and Ribisi,  Depp and a gorgeous blond, then try this. 

seven drunken monkeys

Dr. Hunter S. Thompson (July 18, 1937 – Feb 20, 2005)

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