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Sunday, February 12, 2012

"The Rum Diary", Depp's failed homage to Dr. Gonzo

The Rum Diary

I'm a devoted fan of Hunter S.Thompson, and therefore I loved "The Rum Diary", the novel. Knowing the friendship between Johnny Depp and the Dr. Gonzo, and the personal interest the box office star had on the project, I was really expecting to watch the film. Unfortunately, and although it might work as an entertaining movie, occasionally eccentric, doesn't meet the expectations.

To me it is hard to relate the majority of the film with the book Hunter wrote. It seems to me Johnny Depp's and director's Bruce Robinson main focus was to serve an homage to the writer and American counterculture icon. But I highly doubt the Dr. Gonzo would have liked a tribute that looks and has all elements of a Hollywood blockbuster. A bit of comedy, a romance, a serious plot taken in a very lightweight way, a hero (a bit unusual, but a hero nevertheless) and a happy ending.

If I remember correctly (and I'm pretty sure I do), "The Rum Diary" wasn't a romantic story, which makes the whole affair with Chénault (sorry to say, but Amber Heard role is completely empty) a bit...excessive. Quite frankly, to me the novel was a quite dark one, where drugs, booze, surreal and very dangerous situations gave the tone of an explosive dark comedy. But as I understand from Hunter's literature, behind the grotesque, there was a quite depressive vision of the world. Not to mention that Hunter's period in Puerto Rico was frustrating for him. Something the movie doesn't show at all.  

More worrying issues while watching the movie (comparing it to the book). The disappearing of Yemon's character. The almost irrelevant importance of the "San Juan Star" environment, in particular the local bar (Al's), which on the book was the place where all the newspaper staff gathered and wasted their time. And painfully, the end, miles away from the novel, and really really flat.

Ok, if obviously failed as and adaptation/homage, then let me try to review quickly  "The Rum Diary" just as a film, as if I didn't know anything about Hunter and his novel. Then this is sort of an adventure movie, with an unlikely hero, journalist Paul Kemp (Hunter's alter ego), played with Johnny Depp, who does an ok job, an  impressive cast to benefit from, but sadly not developed to their entire potential, something to regret having great actors as Aaron Eckhart, Richard Jenkins and Giovanni Ribisi, an awkward tone and a plot that weights, with serious problems of balancing, between a political/corruption case and a romance (with loads of alcohol), with director's Robinson deciding to go for the easy one. Did I say the end is flat and disappointing? 

Don't get me wrong. Overall, "The Rum Diary" is not a bad film, but it is unremarkable, and in my opinion, it is fair to say the potential of Hunter's story has been a bit too much for director's Robinson, resulting in a very far from the homage the Doctor Gonzo deserves.  

SCORE: 5,25/10

1 comment:

  1. Finally, a review from someone who has read the book and watched the movie! Several of my movie loving buddies at DISH, where I work, have raved that The Rum Diary is hilarious. The real funny part is that none of them knew that it’s based on a book or that Hunter S. Thompson, the mastermind behind it all, also wrote the material that later became Where the Buffalo Roam and Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. I’m disappointed to read that The Rum Diary may be a disappointment, so I’ll save myself some money and get in HD from DISH. I’ll decide if the story is disappointing but I’m sure that I’ll love every moment that Depp is on the screen!

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