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The Rum Diary

Submitted by MBergeron on October 28, 2024 – 11:29 amNo Comment

Johnny Depp gets some of his best moves playing a young incarnation of Hunter S. Thompson in The Rum Diary. Set in Puerto Rico during the late 1950s, Thompson arrives on the island to work for a newspaper. Depp obviously took this project as a typical labor of love having been friends with the late gonzo writer and even shaving his head for his role as the older Thompson in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.

Depp has resurrected director Bruce Robinson for the project and it’s a perfect fit. While Robinson hasn’t helmed a film since the early 90s his sensibility compliments Thompson’s sense of going past the border of human experience. In particular Robinson finds a kindred spirit for the characters of Rum Diary with the alcoholic denizens of his first film Withnail & I.

Rum Diary starts out bright with lots of blues, whites and occasional reds, the design of American capitalism in a country on the verge of revolution. As the film progresses the colors get murky and even dingy, reflecting the journey of the motley Thompson and his cohorts in colonialism.

Richard Jenkins and Aaron Eckhart are authority figures that place various obstacles in Thompson’s way. But his real nemesis is his capacity for inebriation and the downtrodden fellow writers he lives and parties with - Michael Rispoli and especially Giovanni Ribisi  - only take him further from his goal. Amber Heard pops up as a femme fatale of sorts.

Thompson and gang run afoul of the local law after a drunken night of revelry and cockfights. At one point Robinson, who also wrote the script, interjects a mysterious hallucinogenic drug (not named but perhaps adrenochrome) to establish a gateway from Thompson’s early days as an inexperienced writer to his ability to dictate lacerating psychedelic prose for which he’s commonly known. The Rum Diary is a romp when it wants to romp but also a detailed character study when it wants the audience to cheer on the hedonistic adventures of all involved.

- Michael Bergeron

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