Wednesday, February 8, 2012

The Rum Diary

By Sati. Wednesday, February 8, 2012 , , , , , ,
70/100 (120 min, 2011)
Plot: American journalist Paul Kemp takes on a freelance job in Puerto Rico for a local newspaper during the 1950s and struggles to find a balance between island culture and the expatriates who live there.
Director: Bruce Robinson
Writers: Bruce Robinson (screenplay), Hunter S. Thompson (novel)
Stars: Johnny Depp, Giovanni Ribisi and Aaron Eckhart

Love and Inspiration in Puerto Rico

"Do not confuse love with lust, nor drunkenness with judgment."

When "The Rum Diary" opened in theatres last year it got terrible reviews and ended up being a box office failure. It's a real shame, because the movie contrary to what many critics written about it, is quirky, funny and entertaining. It is also the first good movie Depp did since..."Parnassus" where he appeared for few minutes. I'm excluding his voice work for "Rango" this year - "Rango" was tons of fun and as "The Rum Diary" has references to cult classic "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas". In "The Rum Diary" case it is to be expected - it has ties to Hunter S. Thompson - the movie is based on his long lost novel of the same title.

"The Rum Diary" was written by Hunter S. Thompson in the late fifties. However, it was not released until 1998, when Johnny Depp discovered the unpublished manuscript in the basement of Thompson's house, Owl Farm, in Woody Creek, Colorado. Depp was living with Thompson at the time in preparation for his role as Raoul Duke in "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas". It was Depp who proved to be instrumental in getting "The Rum Diary" published and everntually getting the movie based on it made.
Johnny Depp never fails to deliver good performances, no matter how bad or ridiculous the script. In "The Rum Diary" he finds balance between the extravagance of Jack Sparrow and the feeling of being lost of his character from The Tourist" and countless performances as lovable outsider in Tim Burton movies. As Paul Kemp Depp is easy to relate to, tons of fun and the cool references to his other movies ("I thought you were a mermaid") are as much fun for him as they are for the audience.

The movie's biggest achievement is establishing passionate, rich and intoxicating atmosphere - you can sense the sunlight, the sweat, the scent of alcohol and the ocean breeze. The gorgeous cinematography infuses the movie with emotions and the swift editing adds to the speed and the uncertainty the characters live in. There is a lovely scene in the movie where Depp and Amber Heard are in the car and he is supposed to drive as fast as he can - the first one to scream loses the game.The scene captures the essence of the movie - two drifters meet in bizarre and enchanting circumstances and somehow they are the only ones who feel right to each other.
Heard is one of the most unlucky people in Hollywood - she is good looking and talented but her movies are either failures or nobody goes to see them. Even when something good happens everything ultimately turns out to be a misfire.John Carpenter's "The Ward" was just embarrassing and Heard romance with television resulted in mid season cancellation in "The Playboy Club". It's a shame really - here Heard brings a lot of charm and vulnerability and it's very easy to understand why Kemp falls for her.

Depp doesn't usually has good chemistry with his on screen partners apart with few notable exceptions - Marion Cotillard and Winona Ryder - but here him and Heard are clicking from the first moments. I especially adored passionate love scene as quirky as everything else in the movie - thy get interrupted by...the record of Hitler's speeches. The whole love affair is lovely - Kemp seemed stupified whenever he sees her looking perfect and stunning, showing him the dresses she wants to wear and seducing him. She is immediately taken by him especially since she knows her current boyfriend, villain of the story played by Aaron Eckhart, isn't a good match for her.
The film is filled with quirky characters - starting with Kemp's friend who always has his back and watches TV via binoculars, his roommate who has his brain basically fried from all the drugs and booze, Kemp's boss who throws best insults I heard since Malcolm Tucker was looking for Hugh's replacement in "The thick of it" and there's adorable pet turtle, with shell adorned with jewels.

"The Rum Diary" has few scenes which feel a little bit forced - they are clearly a nod to all "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas" fans out there, who were hoping this movie is going to be similar in style and tone to the cult classic. Well, it isn't. But it's still a very entertaining and funny ride. And there is plenty of crazy situations and drunken haze in it.

10 comments:

  1. Oh, rats. My review, which goes up in a few days, starts with an almost identical opening as yours, and I also gave it 7/10. I'm not stealing, promise!

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    1. Haha, no worries :) I'm glad other people liked this movie.

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  2. Thinking back on this film, I liked a lot of individual bits, but felt the overall pace was off. Depp is at his charismatic best, and I agree with you on Heard - maybe she needs a new agent.

    I might actually pick this up on blu-ray just to watch it on mute and drown in the pretty pictures.

    Nice review!

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    1. Yeah, I'm keeping my fingers crossed for her to find a good one.

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  3. I am still yet to see this one. Nice review. As a fan of Fear and Loathing I am quite keen to se it when it comes to Blu-Ray here

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    1. It's not much like Fear and Loathing apart from few scenes, but it's definetly not as awful as many people are painting it to be :)

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  4. Nice review, as ever, and I am curious to see it- I also think Amber Heard deserves more credit, she is so beautiful and talented, I'm sure her time will come soon! Oh, and I am big Johnny Depp fan, always have been! Did you see Cry Baby- it's so bad, it's so good (a parody, probably)

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    1. No, that's one of the very few Depp's movies I've never seen. If you are a big fan of his I'm sure you will like The Rum Diary, it's really a good performance and enjoyable movie.

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  5. I heard Bruce Robinson came out of retirement to do this film so I was only a little leery about seeing it in theaters. One of my co-workers mentioned at lunch today that it’s in HD on DISH so I’m going to check it out. Since I’m a big fan of Hunter S. Thompson’s work and of Johnny Depp and his work, I have a feeling I’ll probably like The Rum Diary. Thanks for the honest review!

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    1. You're welcome, I hope you'll like it!

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