Have you ever listened to someone describe a night of heavy drinking to you? The story usually starts off sensibly: your friend describes his day, the time, the occasion, and so on. He’ll go on to describe the type of beverage that was consumed, the people that were there, maybe even an incident or two.
However, halfway through his rendition, the storyteller becomes a little hazy, struggling to piece together the story. As it transitions towards the end, you find yourself not only puzzled about the logical progression of the story, but also incensed that you spend the past several minutes listening to the person repeating to you, “You should have been there brah” because he doesn’t even know what the fuck happened. As you wait impatiently for the story to conclude, your friend starts apologizing for the lack detail, continually repeating “I was so drunk” like it’s a good excuse for telling a shitty story. Finally the soap opera ends with a generic conclusion like “somehow I made it home” or “I totally passed out.”
Yeah…that can pretty much summarize The Rum Diary.
GK Films The Rum Diary is based off of the Hunter S. Thompson novel which follows the life of journalist Paul Kemp (Johnny Depp), during his stay in 1950s Puerto Rico. While in Puerto Rico, Kemp receives a job writing for a rundown local newspaper – remember, this is 60 years ago. Kemp quickly finds a cliché ensemble of quirky but loyal drunkard columnists and they begin to introduce Kemp to the “rum-soaked” life of San Juan.
During Kemp’s stay in Puerto Rico, he becomes taken with total smokeshow Chenault (Amber Heard), the fiancé of an entrepreneur named Sanderson (Aaron Eckhart). In an attempt to open more hotels in Puerto Rico, Sanderson offers a lucrative deal to Kemp in exchange for Kemp to write a favorable article towards Sanderson’s property development scheme.
Afterwards the plot continues like any respectable movie shou-… wait…
Oh yeah! There’s a chicken fight and a hallucination with a freakishly long human tongue. And… hmm…what else… oh, something involving Chenault in a night club. And… uhhh… does any of this make sense to you? No, because if you’re one of the 99% of this movie’s audience that didn’t read the book, you’ll have absolutely no idea what actually happened.
Long story short, Kemp suddenly grows a sack and decides to ruin Sanderson’s development plan. However, Sanderson shuts down Kemp’s newspaper, so Kemp “takes the bastard down” by anti-climatically stealing Sanderson’s boat and sailing it off into the sunset.
Believe it or not, the cohesion in my synopsis perfectly reflects the cohesion in the film. Between the dry dialogue and the unclear direction, the film falls short of really connecting to the audience. Bruce Robinson (writer of this tragedy) focused too much on forcing gonzo-like catch phrases into the story rather than implementing exciting and sinister drug-laced situations. To make matters worse, Robinson attempts to give Kemp a transformed view of morals and principles as the movie wraps up. If you look closely, even Depp rolls his eyes as he regurgitates his brain-freezing lines.
Many people went to see this movie in hopes it’ll be a revamped version of the 1998 cult favorite, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. The MPAA Rating alone should have been a red flag for all of us. The film’s rating was R for language, brief drug use and sexuality.
Who goes to a Hunter Thompson movie for brief drug use? I want to see ominously dark characters indulging in absolute depravity. If you market a film to the Hunter S. Thompson niche, fifty percent of the movie should be of the main characters going through outrage-induced drug binges. I want – nay, I need to see the protagonist find himself in a satanic animal sacrifice while his deranged sidekick is shooting up a narcotic Neapolitan. I need to see an underage Vietnamese crack whore going down on our inebriated hero in exchange for an ounce of opium he lied about smoking. But we didn’t get that. Instead we got the hangover and blue balls.
This film fell tragically short from its implication. Thanks for letting me down. Fuck you.
Frank Mayo is a 2005 graduate of Syrit College. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org