“Nowadays, people know the price of everything and the value of nothing.”
The first thing I got to tell you is you got to be in an altered state of mind to watch a film related to Hunter S. Thompson. I chose the relatively safe insomnia, because I kind of guessed his character would either spend a lot of sleepless nights or be hungover. So, after two failed attempts, I finally made my way to the theater to watch this film.
The Rum Diary, like any other film that could be made about the life of Thompson was stuck in developmental hell for ages and went through many cast and crew changes before finalizing on Johnny Depp, in a way reprising his role from Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and Bruce Robinson, who was directing a film after almost 20 years.
The film chronicles the days of Paul Kemp, settling into the job of a journalist for the San Juan Star in Puerto Rico. This is a cash-strapped newspaper with demoralized employees who drink a lot and who are in trouble with the locals. Kemps spends a lot of his time being wasted with the photo journalist Bob Sala (Michael Rispoli) and his room mate, a Nazi-record-collecting, always-zoned-out Moberg (Giovanni Ribisi).
Opportunity presents itself when wealthy business man, Sanderson (Aaron Eckhart), offers him the job of writing a brochure for the new hotel he is planning to build, an immoral job with lot of perks, which also gives Kemp the chance to get close to Chenault (Amber Heard), Sanderson’s fiancée.
Johnny Depp gives a flawless performance and paying homage to his friend, plays Kemp with ease, who finds the voice he needs to stand up to the ‘greedy corporate bastards’, who plan to destroy a paradise-like island for monetary gains.
“Human beings are the only creatures on Earth that claim a God and the only living thing that behaves like it hasn’t got one.”
It is interesting to see how Thompson realized that someone who would make even Nixon look like a liberal (George Bush) would come into power. This might have been added to the screenplay in hindsight – I haven’t read the novel yet to tell for sure.
While it is hard to not draw parallels between The Rum Diary and Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, it needs to be understood that the former was pre-Gonzo period and hence the lack of craziness. However, it has its fair share of drink and drug-taking, chronicling Thompson’s first LSD and ethanol experiences.
Packed liberally with hearty laughs for the ones who get the twisted humor and all-round good performance, a special mention to Giovanni Ribisi, and memorable quotes, the film is a fulfilling experience and brilliantly highlights the formative years that would make Thomspon, the force of nature he eventually became. Also, the beautiful scenery of the island makes me wish I were born 50 years before my actual birth!
“It’s the smell of bastards. It’s also the smell of truth. I smell ink.”
This film is not for people who love Capt. Jack Sparrow but for true blue Hunter S. Thompson fans. Even if this doesn’t do well at the Box Office, I guess we’ll look back at it 10 years from now as a cult classic.