The Rum Diary (2011)

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IMDb Rating
6.2 out of 10 (view IMDb page)

Paul Kemp is a freelance journalist who finds himself at a critical turning point in his life while writing for a run-down newspaper in the Caribbean. Paul is challenged on many levels as he tries to carve out a more secure niche for himself amidst a grou

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MPAA Rating:
120 Minutes
Drama, Mystery, Thriller
Bruce Robinson">
Bruce Robinson (screenplay)
Hunter S. Thompson (novel)">

Weekly Volcano's Review

Rev. Adam McKinney on October 26th, 2011

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As a film, The Rum Diary makes a valiant and nearly successful attempt to join the pantheon of great movies about professional drinkers. We're talking about movies like Withnail & I - wherein a friend warns Withnail not to chase lighter fluid with antifreeze because one shouldn't mix drinks - and Trees Lounge - wherein Steve Buscemi creates a hive life for himself, living in the apartment above his favorite bar. There are many moments in The Rum Diary that approach this kind of inspired greatness, but the spotty moments are large and garish.

Based on the novel by the late, great, and quite daffy Hunter S. Thompson, The Rum Diary takes place in Puerto Rico, circa 1960. Paul Kemp (Johnny Depp), the presumed stand-in for Mr. Thompson, is a journalist who has traveled to San Juan for work at a paper. Our first glimpse of him is as he rises from a drunken stupor, a blood vessel burst in his eye  - the very embodiment of a stupefying hangover. Kemp has a taste for liquor and makes little to no effort to hide this fact, even as his new editor (Richard Jenkins) warns him of the very real danger of falling head first into a sea of rum. A cartoonish premonition of a man's worst days in booze lives in the corner of the newspaper's office, and he goes by Moburg (Giovanni Ribisi). This is a man whose brain is permanently soggy with rum and other unsavory cocktails, and who lives to divulge the secrets behind life's most mundane assumptions, and whose eyes slowly tan and darken with each passing moment.

The Rum Diary is a seriocomic story of a stranger in strange land. Kemp exists much in the same way as Chauncey Gardiner did in Being There, except instead of being a half-comatose simpleton, Kemp is an alcoholic who merely drifts from moment to moment in search of novel experiences and, of course, more to drink. At times, Depp's performance is reminiscent of his turn in Benny and Joon, where he played a young man who longed to be Buster Keaton. Here, Kemp wants to live life the way he wants it, and is constantly confronted with the buzzkills of the real world.

Only in the last ten minutes or so does The Rum Diary truly disappoint. I confess that I haven't read the book upon which it is based, but I had a real dislike of The Rum Diary's ending. Much more I shouldn't say, except to mention that perhaps attaching meaning and righteousness to the character of Paul Kemp was not, in truth, the best way to memorialize the life of Hunter S. Thompson. It felt treacly and untoward, to say nothing of its unpleasant sobriety. - Three stars

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