Published on October 29th, 2011 | by Thompson5
The Rum Diary is a 470-Proof Kick in the Pants
As you all know I have been foaming at the mouth for this film for years, so when The Rum Diary premiered Friday, nothing was going to get between me and that movie. I actually drove 6 hours roundtrip to see the film, so let me be the first to tell you that if you too face a 6 hour drive to see The Rum Diary, it is worth the drive regardless of your highway MPG. I got 20 MPG after a $7 bottle of fuel system cleaner if you were curious, but I don’t regret spending $80 on gas, $7 on fuel system cleaner, and $6.50 on a movie ticket to see The Rum Diary.
Now, I realize I’m a very biased reviewer of this film, but I’m going to do my best to try to stay objective, though, there’s nothing objective about spending nearly $100 to see a film, but what comes with spending nearly $100 to see a film is an orgy of high expectations. When I walked into the Grand Theaters in Bismarck, ND dressed as Hunter S. Thompson after smoking a joint in the parking lot I felt a weird feeling in my stomach. It may have been the weed letting me know I wanted some popcorn with peanut M&Ms, but I think it had more to do with what my cousin had said when he realized how excited I was to see The Rum Diary, and how glad he would be that I told him to go.
“Well, I hope it doesn’t suck,” he said.
I wanted to hate him for what he said, but he’s my favorite cousin, and I couldn’t stay mad at him for long. Besides, deep down I knew the film would be momentous in its own way. The fact that it was made largely because Johnny Depp demanded it is momentous in itself.
We got through the ticket window ordeal and got our popcorn. I already had a liter of Dr. Pepper in my jacket, which looked like an awkward growth on my chest, but no one gave us any lip for it. We gave our tickets to the cute, blonde ticket checker and made our way to theater 13. I already knew the theater. I had the schedule in my pocket in case I wanted to catch another movie afterwards.
We found our seats near the back of the mostly empty theater (not the turnout I was hoping for, but it was a 4;15 showing) and settled in for trailers. J. Edgar, a surprisingly mediocre trailer, didn’t deter my interest in seeing the film, though I have been disappointed by Clint Eastwood before. Immortals…a movie I won’t see. Girl With the Dragon Tattoo looks rather good. Then, the curtain closed and the lights dimmed and we were ready to rumble.
The film begins much like the trailer, and I found that the best parts of the film were in the trailer. I found myself and others laughing out loud more than a few times throughout the film. My cousin pointed out that Amber Heard, who plays Chenault, looks fanfuckintastic. And she really does.
Throughout the entire film, I felt like I was waiting for something…something that never came. I felt the film, when compared to its predecessors, tried to provide a much more believable environment, which is fascinating since The Rum Diary is Dr. Thompson’s only work of fiction. The rest of his work is classified as nonfiction in libraries across the country though much of Hunter’s Gonzo journalism is admittedly fiction, so it’s interesting that his only novel provides the most believable environment and characters. Though Michael Rispoli plays an acceptable Sala, and Giovanni Ribisi plays an impeccable Moburg, neither of them is as unbelievable as Dr. Thompson’s attorney performed by either Peter Boyle or Benicio del Toro. Moburg is close, but no cigar. I also felt Aaron Eckhart’s performance as Sanderon could have used a spark. He seemed almost too nice to be a bad guy, and a bit more evil enthusiasm like his role as Two-face in Dark Knight may have been appropriate.
Of course, the book is better than the movie, but you just can’t present that much information in a movie. Sure, there are scenes in the book I wish got more attention, but it’s not my interpretation of the book. In many scenes I felt the wild craziness was just about to go off the rails and then it was pulled back for some reason or none. And though the film may have been funnier had director, Bruce Robinson, taken it further, he effectively distinguishes himself from Terry Gilliam and Art Linson by presenting a relatively believable environment.
I felt a hint of Gonzo missing, though, and maybe it should have been missing given Dr. Thompson’s passing. But I know, had he seen it, he would have loved it and been proud of Johnny for making it. And though it may not spark a revolution or bring about the Neo-Gonzo Renaissance (I like to think Go Gonzo Journal is facilitating that), I think everyone involved with The Rum Diary should be proud of the sorely deserved dedication they gave the Gonzo doctor.
THE VERDICT (86/100): See it in theaters if you’re a fan of Dr. Hunter S. Thompson, Johnny Depp, or the previous films. If you’re unfamiliar with Dr. Thompson and Gonzo journalism, see it in theaters if you like a good story, rum, and sandy beaches. I know you’ll enjoy it, but don’t be surprised when you get to the theater and find out it’s not Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas or Where the Buffalo Roam.