The Rum Diary Review

Every so often a film arrives in cinemas that goes against all expectations and when that film is born from the mind of Hunter S Thompson, directed by Bruce Robinson, and stars Johnny Depp, it’s obvious that it is going to be something different. And The Rum Diary most definitely is.

Adapted and directed by the creator of Withnail and I, The Rum Diary is everything a Bruce Robinson film should be and so much more. It’s witty, intelligent, unpredictable, hilarious madness right from the very beginning to the rather profound end. Like most Robinson films the plot is minimalistic but the comedic events are plentiful.

Paul Kemp (portrayed by Johnny Depp) is a journalist who gets a job at a failing San Juan newspaper and is unwittingly drawn into the corrupt world of the upper classes. Along the way he meets Bob, a crazy photographer; Moburg, a permanently high, Nazi supporting hippie, and love interest Chennault played by Drive Crazy’s Amber Heard.

As mentioned the plot is minimalistic and soon fades into the back of your mind as you get swept away into the wonderfully exciting, yet dangerous world of 1960s San Juan, where the drink flows freely and reason is banished to the wind. Instead the plot focuses on a variety of hugely interesting and eccentric characters stumbling through life, that could only accumulate in such a place.

Johnny Depp is perfect as the sexy, determined, western journalist Paul Kemp, who overdoses on the carefree Puerto Rico lifestyle. Depp plays the part to a tee, which isn’t surprising since the role was written for him by Robinson. Paul Kemp, although slightly bewildered and hung-over during the opening of the film, soon settles down to life in San Juan and takes everything in his stride with an air of old Captain Jack Sparrow casualness, which makes for some brilliant exchanges and sets the overall tone of the film.

The Rum fuelled film deals with some powerful issues, presenting San Juan as a breeding ground for the rich and greedy, which strongly contrasts with the natives and the newspaper reporters who all appear to have found themselves in no man’s land. Life is one long never-ending party with dangerous, even sinister, undertones all fuelled by alcoholism. All the characters lack any real purpose in life and are trapped in a world of poverty where there is a strong fear of old age and all it brings.

But despite the rather dark underlying themes the film is very entertaining and the humour is incredibly eclectic, so much so that even the most straight-faced person will find something to laugh at. There is subtle humour amongst the dialogue which is brilliantly delivered by Depp, in particular the line, “are they not complimentary?” is delivered with such innocence when he’s questioned by his editor about the bill for 161 miniatures from the minibar. But there is also physical comedy which will have audiences howling with laughter, and sexual innuendo and misunderstanding in abundance which balances well with the more sombre tone towards the end.

The Rum Diary is an incredibly powerful and insightful film. The script is littered with witty, clever dialogue which grabs your attention the moment the film begins and takes you on a journey, revealing the very soul of San Juan and all who live there. The film is visually stunning and there are more laughs, shenanigans and witty lines at every turn, while at the same time there is a feeling that there is something much more threatening going on in the background. No amount of words can give The Rum Dairy the justice it deserves, but what I can say is that very rarely does a film have the impact this has. It may have been a long time coming but it was more than worth the wait.   

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