Movie review – The Rum Diary


The Rum Diary
Dir. Bruce Robinson
Starring: Johnny Depp, Giovanni Ribisi, and Aaron Eckhart

The hardest thing a fan will ever do is take off their rose-coloured shades and admit that something in their fandom sucks. As a Hunter Thompson fanatic, it pains me to write this, but holy shit is The Rum Diary terrible.

The Rum Diary happens to share its name and plot with the 1959 Hunter Thompson novel. Johnny Depp plays Paul Kemp, a struggling writer trying to make it as a journalist in Puerto Rico, and Aaron Eckhart’s glorious chin plays Hal Sanderson.  Everyone else pops in and out of the film so casually they aren’t worth noting.

Now, a quick history lesson: the novel upon which the movie was based was a harsh look at the socio-economic gap between suppressed lower class citizens living in the boomtown of 1950 Puerto Rico, and the fat cats – “bastards” as Kemp calls them – who benefit more and more the wider this gap becomes.

Ten seconds into the film, one notices the distinct stench of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas hanging around. The first shot of Kemp we get is a staggering, bloodied mess. I’m not sure if this is supposed to set the tone of the film, or describe the mess of the film we’re about to witness. Several important plot points are skipped entirely, major characters are written out of the story entirely, and then ending of the film is completely fabricated. The Rum Diary feels more and more like director Bruce Robinson filming a poorly thought out college improv sketch than the long-awaited Hunter Thompson story come alive.

Robinson tried so hard to recapture the outlandishness of Fear and Loathing with The Rum Diary that he ended up cheapening both works. If you’ve been awaiting this movie as anxiously as I’ve been, then don’t go see it. Reread the book and enjoy. Fuck you, Bruce Robinson, Hunter deserved a better homage than this, and his fans deserved a better film.

Kyle Leitch

1 comment

  1. Kurt Felins 14 November, 2011 at 11:07

    Couldn't agree more – this film was fucking terrible. I read the book about 5 years ago and I'm a huge fan of Hunter's work in general, but I deliberately didn't re-read the book before the film came out so I could judge the film on its own merits – boy was I disappointed.   
    I suppose the warning signs were there all along with Director Robinson saying that he read the book twice and threw it away and bragging that only two of Thompson's lines actually make it into the film. Robinson hasn't worked as a director for 17 years – this film explains why – it's disjointed, poorly structured, badly acted and atrociously written. As for the picture of Hunter on the beach at the end – one of him spinning in his grave would have been more appropriate.  
    I fully support your 'Fuck you Bruce Robinson' but I think you have to say 'Fuck you, Johnny Depp' too – he produced it, chose Robinson to direct and cast himself as Kemp (automatically destroying one of the main themes he claims the film was supposed to convey – Depp looks like what he is, a man in his 40s, so the sense of young writer finding his voice is totally ruined – as is the plausibility of his romance with Chenault).
    Most annoyingly though, Depp says he made this film as a tribute to Hunter – yet it will only disappoint his fans and deter those who haven't read his work. Some tribute. 

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