Tuesday, November 8, 2011

The Rum Diary

In 1960, journalist Paul Kemp takes a job at the San Juan Star, a failing paper under a miserly editor run out of a dilapidated building. Soaking up booze and living with two of his colleagues in an equally neglected apartment, Kemp begins to freelance for a shady businessman looking to develop the island, and sets his sights on his fetching fiance. Bruce Robinson's adaptation of Hunter S. Thompson's first novel is simultaneously a wild meandering romp through Puerto Rico as well as a condemnation of 1960s jet set culture. Johnny Depp, again playing a Thompson cipher, brings the proper amount of beguile and shock to the part and creates really a fun character. Amber Heard is dazzling and quite good as Aaron Eckhart's fiance, who is also in good form as the macho sleazeball. Richard Jenkins, Michael Rispoli, and Giovanni Ribisi are also wonderful in comic roles as newspaperman. I immensely despised the aimless and headache inducing wanderings of "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas", Depp's other Thompson film. Yet here, I feel Robinson (who hasn't directed a film in 19 years) finds the right rhythms as well as the correct blends of romp and cynicism to do Thompson's work justice.