Monday, October 31, 2011

The Rum Diary

Johnny Depp channels his close friend Hunter S. Thompson in this film version of Mr. Thompson's novel. The book is based on Mr. Thompson's exploits in Puerto Rico early in his journalist career. Mr. Depp has played this role once before in "Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas" which was a slice of Mr. Thompson's career much later in life. Mr. Depp portrayed him in that film as the alcohol fueled, drug induced manic "gonzo" journalist he was to become. In "The Rum Diary", Mr. Thompson's fictional character, Paul Kemp, has yet to "find his voice" and Mr. Depp plays him wooden and colorless.

By it's own admission, the film centers on the excess consumption of rum and the antics of drunken journalists. The thin plot has to do with some shady land deals that have Mr. Depp crossing paths with Aaron Eckhart and Amber Heard. Why Mr. Eckhart's character needs a journalist "in on the deal" is never quite explained but it does give Mr. Depp time to seriously flirt with Ms. Heard (the next Scarlett Johansson). Ms. Johansson was rumored to actually be cast but I suppose that was before she actually read the script.

The film's most colorful characters are it's supporting cast played by Richard Jenkins, the editor of Mr. Depp's Newspaper, Giovanni Ribisi as a rum soaked washout of a journalist and Michael Rispoli, as a photographer who becomes Mr. Depp's best friend. This is actually one of Mr. Rispoli's best roles in a long career of character acting.

Amidst the repetitive drunken scenes, by the film's end, "Paul Kemp" does manage to "find his voice" ensuring years of a unique writing style. Unfortunately, Mr. Depp may be losing his, based on his most recent films. When he's not being outrageous (a Mad Hatter or Captain Jack), his characters tend to be lifeless and boring. When the rum's gone, all you have left is an empty bottle and a hangover.

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