I’ll say this right from the beginning – I really liked The Rum Diary – starring Johnny Depp, Aaron Eckhart, Richard Jenkins, Michael Rispoli, Giovanni Ribisi and Amber Heard.
For a start – it’s directed by Bruce Robinson who was cajoled out of a kind of hiding by Johnny Depp to write and direct this early novel by Hunter S Thompson. Bruce is a living legend for giving us Withnail & I.
The dialogue is snappy, smart and arms the viewer with a swag of one-liners that are poignant summaries of life in 1960s Puerto Rico. The echoes of the McCarthy era linger, the dark lord of the CIA looms large and unchallenged. Exploitative big business is about to explode into Americanised tourism and devastate one of the most beautiful places on Earth.
I whole-heartedly disagree with any reviewers (and there are plenty) who claim this film is disjointed. It’s a rum diary – fuelled by not only rum but all kinds of substances. There’s a unity and fluidity to rum itself. And Bruce Robinson is masterful at directing disjointed people appearing to blunder from scenario to scenario. Withnail & I is classic for this.
It’s annoying to read reviews by people who criticize the treatment or structure of a story on celluloid because it doesn’t conform to some rigid, mostly Hollywood constraints. Structure should reflect story and action. That’s how unity is created in art. The political and social climate of Puerto Rico was disjointed, unpredictable and at times, random. I like movies to capture the essence of a story – not force the story into a formula.
Giovanni Ribisi reminded me a lot of Max in Midnight Express played by John Hurt.
Aaron Eckhart is perfectly cast as the bureaucratic bastard out to scam and exploit Puerto Ricans for all they’re worth.
Amber Heard is masterful as the seductress and owns the screen when she’s on it like Sharon Stone did way back in Basic Instinct.
Who doesn’t want a good buddy like Sala perfectly played by Michael Rispoli? Wait til you see the way this guy lives. Like The Young Ones. On crack. With rum. The production design of this movie is great!
And I never get sick of watching anything Richard Jenkins does on screen. Ever since I first took notice of him as the long-suffering husband who eventually escapes his wife by murdering her in The Witches Of Eastwick, I was a big fan.
The Rum Diary is a rollicking good time written about a crazy time in a crazy place filled with crazy characters. It’s a morality tale and redemption story. It’s also an expression of Johnny Depp’s continued love and respect for the work of a man he deeply admired – a writer and commentator who ultimately shot himself in the head then had his ashen remains shot out of a cannon. Johnny Depp attended the ‘cannonization’ [sic] of this insane saint and reportedly paid for the funeral arrangements to ensure they were exactly as Hunter wanted them.
I share Johnny Depp’s love of Hunter S Thompson and his work. The destruction of his own temple with alcohol and drugs was a microcosmic reflection of what he saw America doing to itself.
Go see The Rum Diary when it’s out on March 15 and visit the world of Hunter S Thompson in the film version of the novel that seems to be autobiographical. He was a writer who believed in free thinking and free drinking. It’s a lot of fun to visit that world!
Here’s the trailer.