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The Rum Diary

I saw the Rum Diary last week.

Based off an early Hunter S. Thompson novel that was unpublished until found again by, reportedly, Johnny Depp, and one that I could just never get into, despite a few attempts. I love Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, and I recently read and loved On the Campaign Trail '72, but Thompson was a patchy writer and The Rum Diary revealed more of that than anything else to me. But, the film. The film looked interesting. The trail suggested that it might be funny. I figured I'd give it a go and see how it turned out.

Mostly, the film is a failure, and I figure this is due, partly, because of the deviation from the original material, and making the film an ode to Hunter S. Thompson, using the main character as a vehicle to essentially chronicle the birth of the gonzo journalist, or at least the birth of a socially aware one. Perhaps the Rum Diary is, in fact, this, but I like to think that Thompson did not do that. I could be wrong, however. Either way: the film opens with Paul Kemp awaking in a hotel in Puerto Rico, about to start a job as a freelance writing at a suffering newspaper. There, he encounters Sala, a photographer, and others, and some encounters happen, a social awareness is born, and so on and so forth. It's a pretty flat affair for the most part, though it has a few funny moments, and I was engaged enough.

Perhaps the strangest thing about the film, however, is how it deliberately attempts to echo Terry Gilliam's Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. Depp's Kemp is a more restrained version of his Thompson in that film, and Michael Rispoli's Sala is a earlier version of Benico del Toro's lawyer. While that does make for interesting viewing upon occasion, the biggest problem is that Gilliam's film was not really very good, either, and so by echoing a film that never succeeds, The Rum Diary, despite everyone in it, and despite their various levels of talent, is doomed to be unsuccessful from the start.


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Mar. 19th, 2012 04:18 am (UTC)
Gilliam's Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas is one of my go-to examples of an adaptation done right, which probably explains why I enjoyed The Rum Diary more than you did. But while I think it's a pretty good Journalists Behaving Badly comedy, it's not very good in any of the serious moments when, like you say, it seems to be trying to say something about Hunter S. Thompson rather than his book. That stuff definitely fell flat.

I also thought Giovanni Ribisi was hysterical.
Mar. 19th, 2012 04:24 am (UTC)
yeah, see, i guess if you thought fear and loathing was sweet as, then the rum diary will score high. i guess i just thought the film never came close to the subtext of the book, but either way, i thought it kinda failed. i like it a little more than the rum diary, and i cruised with both till the end, but it won't stay with me.

ribisi was pretty funny though. i did love his nazi record collection.
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