By NINA ELLIOT
Director Bruce Richardson is a master of memoir, scene and mood. It is no wonder this film is as beautiful, compelling and tiring as Hunter S. Thompson’s style of writing.
“The Rum Diary” is a movie made for Thompson’s readers. It begins with a graceful introduction to the beauty of Puerto Rico on the heels of Thompson’s biting criticism of tourism, white Americans and big business.
Despite the unusual plotline classic archetypes remain: stranger to town, arch enemy, femme fatale, fat and funny foil. Surprisingly, Johnny Depp did not overly characterize his role of Paul Kemp.
The strength of the storyline relied on the comic relief of Kemp’s roommates and coworkers, their scene stealing made other characters feel boring despite how good looking the other actors are.
Plot drags a few times but glimpses into the dominant culture of white men at the wheel in 1960s America. There is cursory acknowledgement of native Puerto Ricans and their poverty but nothing substantial.
It is gratifying to see the way past bullshit resembles current bullshit without nostalgia, which resonates through characters’ comments about politicians (“this guy lies like he breathes,”) capitalism (“the average guy don’t rock the boat because he wants to climb aboard,”) and journalism (“do you smell it? It’s the smell of bastards. I smell the truth and I smell ink.”)
Robinson paints men in the worst of obstacles, compelling them to change as Kemp does when he finds his true voice: “It will be a voice of ink and rage.” And oh, did it rage.
Don’t watch this film looking for the outrageousness of “Fear and Loathing” nor the book “The Great Shark Hunt;” you will find neither. Watch this movie for the craftsmanship and story.