The Rum Diary

Bruce Robinson
Written by: Bruce Robinson (screenplay), Hunter S. Thompson (novel)
Cast: Johnny Depp, Amber Heard, Michael Rispoli, Aaron Eckhart

Year / Country: 2011, USA
Running Time: 115 mins.

The title ‘The Rum Diary’ can mean two things. Hunter S Thompson’s novel that is told in this movie or The San Juan Star, the near bankrupt Puerto Rican newspaper where main character Paul Kemp (Thompson’s alter ego) takes a job as journalist. Why? Because the entire writing staff is completely drunk. The same seems to apply for the whole population of Puerto Rico in the 1960’s, the setting of The Rum Diary.

This is a story about alcohol and lots of it. But, whenever Kemp takes time off of drinking, he engages in a compelling journalistic endeavor, shining light on the culture and problems of the relatively unknown country he resides in. This is also a love story. Kemp falls head over heels for the stunning Chenault, the girlfriend of corrupt businessman Sanderson, who wants Kemp to write stories in favor of his unethical real estate plans.

Kemp’s dilemma, going along with the flow or exposing the ‘bastards’ as he puts it, is the backbone of this movie. The pace is as relaxed as the setting and director Robinson succeeds well in translating the mood of Thompson’s novel to the white screen. The cast is on a roll as well. Depp, who once said he would like to play Thompson every few years, is solid as always. He gets excellent comic support from press associates Michael Rispoli, Richard Jenkins and Giovanni Ribisi. Amber Heard and Aaron Eckhart play Chenault and Sanderson, whose characters add the necessary intrigue and substance to the story.

Obviously this is no Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and the drug fuelled craziness portrayed in that movie is largely absent. This is Thompson Light; a smaller movie without too much excessive behavior. Director Robinson did add one pretty funny drug scene that can be considered as a wink to big brother Fear and Loathing. In The Rum Diary, the author Thompson is still searching for his unique voice and it is pleasant to join him on this quest. It is best to keep some rum within reach though as you might get thirsty underway.


Biography: Bruce Robinson (1946, Broadstairs, Kent) started his career as an actor, but did not find it fulfilling nor lucrative. He started writing screenplays and in 1984, his Cambodia script The Killing Fields was turned into a memorable war movie by Roland Joffé. With his second script, he chose to direct himself. Withnail & I, which is largely autobiographical, became a cult classic. Robinson’s subsequent films, the advertising satire How To Get Ahead in Advertising and the serial-killer thriller Jennifer 8, while less memorable than his debut, still showed Robinson’s talents. In 2011 he brought The Rum Diary, a novel by legendary writer and Gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson, to the screen which received mixed reviews.

Filmography: Withnail & I (1987) / How to Get Ahead in Advertising (1989) / Jennifer Eight (1992) / The 02Rum Diary (2011)


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