The Rum Diary
‘I don't know how to write like me.’
Paul Kemp is a writer aching to find his voice. This is a concept with which I’m familiar.
Johnny Depp plays Paul Kemp in The Rum Diary, Hunter S. Thompson's first novel adapted for the screen by director Bruce Robinson.
In the film Kemp moves from New York to San Juan, Puerto Rico to write for The San Juan Star, a struggling newspaper in the height of the American yuppie uprising in the early 1960s. Lotterman (Richard Jenkins) is The San Juan Star’s editor-in-chief, who has a problem with the fact that his staff has a drinking problem: “How does anybody drink 161 miniatures?”
Kemp is swept into a world of greed, lust, and thanks to his co-workers/roommates, (Giovanni Ribisi and Michael Rispoli) 470 proof alcohol. While managing to be both political and humorous, the screenplay itself lacked the feel of a Thompson score. The writing was too obvious to begin with—the film started too slowly for words, but the performances from Depp, Jenkins, and especially Ribisi saved it from its hokey dialogue.
Depp’s facial features made his performance all the more believable and brought out the silliness of Thompson’s work, but Aaron Eckhart is mediocre at best in his ‘bad guy’ portryal as a greedy real estate mogul. I have not come to expect great things from Eckhart in roles aimed at provoking anger from the audience, and his work as Sanderson was no different.
Amber Heard plays Chenault, Sanderson’s frightfully skinny girlfriend whom Kemp falls for. She is the only strong female in the movie, and I hate to go on a tangent, but I am sick to shit of women who don’t eat and are seen as sex objects. It’s unnerving, and Hunter S. Thompson would roll over in his grave to see his main character’s love interest with no meat on her bones.
On a lighter note, Giovanni Ribisi steals the show with his eccentric inflection and overall repulsive behavior. He brings the alcoholic, drug-induced flavor the movie lacks until his arrival about a half-hour in.
All in all, The Rum Diary was full of witty performances and stylistically beautiful scenery. The set and costumes were captivating, and while it was no Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, it was still nice to see at least a hint of the Thompson we love dearly and miss daily.