Fix Movies Reviews

Rum Diary Not True To Thompson

Talon Bronson
Senior Reporter
PORTLAND, Oregon, U.S.A. – It was with
high hopes that I headed to the local theater, to catch a late showing of The Rum Diary, Johnny Depp’s new film, a
movie loosely based on the Hunter S. Thompson book of the same name.
The rum diary was the first of
Thompson’s books I read, ages ago, at a stage of in between, when literature
was still relatively safe for me, before I branched out, and found the likes of
Thompson, or ‘Gonzo,’ Jack Kerouac, and J.D. Salinger.
Once I read The Rum Diary, that stage of innocence was all over.
There was edge, no fabrication, little
exaggeration, just honest truth in that book. It changed the way I looked at
writing, and forever changed what volumes took up space upon my bookshelf.
So maybe it is because my hopes were so
high, that I feel the need to write a purely scathing review.
Rum Diary

is a Hollywood film. This does not work in its favor.
Anyone who has read Thompson understands
that his writing is very much not Hollywood-compatible.
Thompson’s Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas – the screen version also starred
Depp – worked, simply because of the exorbitant drug use, but if you look at both
the movie and the book, you will realize that not much happens.
The same goes for The Rum Diary. A plot line is fairly non-existent. While that works
for the book – the Gonzo writing takes over and you could read for hours on the
inner musings of our lead character Paul Kemp, as long as it is in the Gonzo
Narration style.
In film, the only real way for that narration
style to come across over the screen is in visual effects. Unfortunately, The Rum Diary leaves little opportunity
for the essence of Thompson to come across. Instead, it focuses more upon the
beautiful scenery of San Juan.
That’s enjoyable in and of itself, sure,
but not what I had come for.
The acting falls flat as well. Depp, who
obviously also played a pseudo-Thompson in Fear
and Loathing
, does seem to be trying to do the Hunter name justice.
Unfortunately, he finds himself in the
position of playing the Thompson we all know and love, the insane heathen who
was equal parts brilliant, and, in his own entertaining ways, very stupid.
It’s a bad position for Depp to be in, because
this was before Thompson was Gonzo.
Rum Diary,
early work of Thompson’s published several
decades later in 1999, was well written, entertaining, and strongly showed the
aggressive leaning that would take control in his later writing, but Thompson at
that time was not yet the Gonzo we know.
As such, we end up with a film where
Depp founders from scene to scene, at some points appearing to be playing
Thompson, and at others, playing Paul Kemp, who represents who Thompson really
was when he wrote The Rum Diary.
The difference is gigantic, but somehow
escaped the director, writers, and Depp himself.
Speaking of the writers, I will honestly
say that they represent my biggest disappointment in this movie. To sell to a
market, they did the obvious thing; they tried to write a Gonzo movie out of the
aforementioned very much NOT Gonzo material.
The biggest flub here is a scene in the movie
that did not appear in the book. It may seem small to some, but to me, it
speaks volumes.
In this scene, Paul Kemp and his
roommate and coworker, Sala, take some psychotropic drugs for the first time.
This is a cheap way to try to cash in on the Gonzo everyone knows. It is
completely irreverent to the plot, and as I watched it, my eyes dropped in
Rum Diary

showcases a time when Thompson had yet to find psychotropic drugs, a time when
he was much more innocent, when all there was, was, well, rum!
Speaking of which, the drinking is
vastly downplayed. This may seem a surprising thing to say to anyone that has
only seen the movie, for the lead characters never seem to stop.
If a drinking game were to be played
during The Rum Diary, the rules being
you would drink every time a character did, you probably wouldn’t even get to
remember the second half of the flick. But, anyone who’s read the book will
point out that for every scene of drunken debauchery, there are three in the
In fact, it’s hard to go a paragraph in
the book without reading something akin to drunken rage, or humor.
The movie is not bad, but horribly
average, and if the source material had not been Thompson, I would not feel so
strongly about its mediocrity. Many a book has been marred by its film
interpretation, but Thompson deserves better.
In the words of a far more well known, rum-swilling
Depp character:
“Why is the rum gone?”
Pity. I had just about forgiven Depp for
Pirates of the Caribbean, Two through