Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Rum Diary

Full disclosure, I love this book and just about anything written by Hunter S. Thompson. I thought Johnny Depp was brilliant in "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas" (1998) and have been looking forward to "the Rum Diary" making its way onto the big screen since 2005.

The cast of the film has some of my personal favorites including Johnny Depp (Paul Kemp), Richard Jenkins (Lotterman), Giovanni Ribisi (Moburg), and Aaron Eckhart (Sanderson). Then there are the characters that I enjoyed in the book, such as Sala (Michael Rispoli), the glum photographer that only wants to go to Mexico and retire; and Chenault (Amber Heard), an attractive but slightly repressed young woman. Each character is eccentric and magnified through the drunken eyes of Hunter S Thompson. Together the entertaining cast stumbles through the discovery of the American Dream involving the pending real estate development (and despoiling) of San Juan and plenty of behind-the-scenes political wheeling and dealing and everything that is wrong with that dream.

The story is set in Puerto Rico in the late 1950s during the early years of Hunter S. Thompson's career before the heavily drug indulgences of Las Vegas. The events in the story are happenings that only someone as crazy as Hunter S. Thompson would find himself involved with. Whether it is cock fighting; a drunken night finished with fight the locals; or a night in prison, not many of us can relate to these indulgences. Much like the book, the film drags at times as Kemp balances his attempts at being a responsible journalist with the lucid indulgences of life on the island.

The biggest difference between the book and the film is that Chenault is the fiance of Aaron Eckhart’s character Sanderson, a charming but unsavory businessman. In the book Chenault is Yeamon’s girlfriend, but the Yeamon character is not included in the film allowing for Sala and Kemp to get into more trouble together. This also provides for more tension between Kemp and Sanderson, and makes Chenault even more unobtainable.

The performances from Johnny Depp, Richard Jenkins and Giovanni Ribisi are perfect, with Ribisi standing out even more than ever before. They balance off each other so perfectly that the polarity in their characters doesn't appear as jarring as they probably should. Don't expect to see a film like "Fear and Loathing", but instead treat it as a prequel of sorts. The events that created the guy you see in Las Vegas. With that in mind the film is easily a must see film and will require multiple viewings. I am going to indulge a bit with the rating and give it 4 Quacks.

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