The Rum Diary – Movie Review

Based on a short story penned by Hunter S Thompson in his early twenties (and which was apparently unearthed by Johnny Depp when spending some time with the novelist, who was a close friend in the years up to his death in 2005) The Rum Diary recounts the early experiences of journalist Paul Kemp (played by Depp) who travels to Puerto Rico to write for an ailing local newspaper, The San Juan Star. Indulging himself in a world of alcohol and drug use, Kemp becomes obsessed with the enigmatic fiancee of American wide-boy Sanderson (Aaron Eckhart) who is involved in various dodgy dealings centred around the creation of a tropical paradise on a remote island.The story lurches from one sordid scene to another as Kemp is aided and abetted by grungy photographer Sala (Michael Rispoli) and permanently spaced-out reporter Moburg (fantastically played by Giovanni Ribisi) as he decides where the fine line between his libido and his journalistic integrity lies. 
Written with an eye on Hunter S Thompson’s series of published letters  this isn’t a conventional movie with a defined beginning, middle and end – it’s more a meandering character study, which might leave an audience expecting a very straightforward plot out in the cold. However, as a character study it’s superb – the primary players are supremely fleshed out, with the performances of Depp, Eckhart, Rispoli and Ribisi absolutely full of depth and weight. Even Puerto Rico (which most people have only ever glimpsed via West Side Story) almost takes on the qualities of a character in itself, with some scenes exploring its grimy and dangerous dirt-packed backstreets and shanty dwellings, while others focus on its bright, colourful culture and lazy sun-drenched beaches. 
For Depp fans, or frankly anyone who’s read Hunter S Thompson, The Rum Diary is definitely worth the two hours of time you’ll spend watching this in the cinema. Recommended.
About Pete Stean

Pete Stean is a London-based writer and photographer. He can also be found on Twitter and on Google Plus.

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