Sunday, October 30, 2011


The Rum Diary is based on the novel of the same name, by Hunter S. Thompson, and is considered a prequel of sorts to Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1998), also written by Thompson. I haven't read the book, and thus have no basis for comparison, but the movie was 120 minutes of drawn out, pointless scenes, save for the beautiful scenery and the outfits worn by Depp and his cohorts. It's also a film that has been shelved for a few years now, though Johnny Depp looks timeless as always, and it makes me wonder why the studio execs finally decided to drag it into theaters. The movie wasn't really a drama, and wasn't really a comedy either - though it certainly tried to be - and it leaves the audience wondering exactly what it's trying to accomplish.

Kemp (Johnny Depp, Pirates of the Caribbean) has just moved to Puerto Rico to work for The San Juan Star. His boss, Mr. Lotterman (Richard Jenkins, Let Me In) hardly runs a tight ship, and Kemp has the time to pursue other ... interests while on the job. He finds a friend in coworker Sala (Michael Rispoli, Kick-Ass) and elects to rent a small room in his apartment. Kemp soon gets tangled up in some shady dealings with Mr. Sanderson (Aaron Eckhart, Battle Los Angeles) and unfortunately develops quite a crush on his girlfriend, Chenault (Amber Heard, The Joneses), pronounced like "Chanel." Sanderson is trying to build a hotel on an island that the U.S. government is about to give up, and he wants Kemp to write some clever articles to help him accomplish this. We also meet the "religion writer" for the paper, Moburg (Giovanni Ribisi, Avatar), who rooms with Kemp and Sala as well, and a host of other writers that all work for Lotterman.

No, don't see this film. I can list the things I liked about this movie on one hand: Johnny Depp's pompadour, the clothes of the era (1950s), the beautiful scenery, and the eccentric performance given by Giovanni Ribisi. The things I didn't like, however, could fill a book. Like I said, perhaps I'd feel differently if I had read/been familiar with the novel the film is based upon, but by judging this film solely on the film itself, it's a waste of two hours. Depp is charming as always but his personality is a bit underused here, save for the wide-eyed faces he makes every so often, and the movie doesn't really seem to have a purpose. Depp wants to get the girl, he wants to write for the paper, he wants to help Eckhart's character with his little hotel project (probably because Eckhart let him borrow his super nice car ...), he and one of his roomies are involved in cock fighting ... the list goes on and on, and there were so many subplots that eventually I began to lose count of them. The film ends in shambles as well, in my opinion, with Depp and his crew not accomplishing one of the things they set out to do. What's fortifying these characters, apparently, is that Jack Sparrow (Depp) will never have to ask why the rum is gone, since there's a seemingly unlimited supply of it in Puerto Rico ... and you'll need a good dose of that to make it all the way through this movie.

The Rum Diary is in theaters now and is rated R with a runtime of 120 minutes.

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Liz Parker is a 2009 graduate of the University of Michigan. She currently works as an Assistant Medical Editor for a pathology website. Visit her at her movie blog Yes/No Films
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