Director: Bruce Robinson
Cast & Crew: Johnny Depp, Aaron Eckhart, Michael Rispoli, Amber Heard, Richard Jenkins, Giovanni Ribisi, Amaury Nolasco, Marshall Bell , Bill Smitrovich, Julian Holloway, Karen Austin
Synopsis: The Rum Diary is an adaptation from a novel written by Hunter S. Thompson by the same name. The movie depicts the highly unhinged story of an itinerant journalist Paul Kemp (Johnny Depp) who tired of the noise and madness of New York City and the crushing conventions of the Eisenhower era travels to the pristine island of Puerto Rico to write for a local San Juan newspaper run by the downtrodden editor Edward Lotterman (Richard Jenkins). Adopting the rum-soaked lifestyle of the late ‘50s version of Ernest Hemingway’s “The Lost Generation”, Paul gets romantically involved with a very attractive American woman, Chenault (Amber Heard) while her fiancée Sanderson (Aaron Eckhart) is a businessman involved in shady property development deals. It is within this world that Kemp ultimately discovers his true voice as a writer and integrity as a man.
“Imagine what it must be like to be an alcoholic,” (ironically) declares Kemp, the boozy American journo played by Johnny Depp. Kemp is sloshed for the better part of the two hours.
Kemp leaves New York to slum it out at a local newspaper, the San Juan Star, in dreamy Puerto Rico. Surrounded by fellow drunks, he takes to their vices and also gets swept into the company of a rich and glamorous businessman, Sanderson (Aaron Eckhart). Of course there’s the affair with the ravishing bikini-clad woman with blood red lipstick, Chenault (Amber Heard). Instead of falling in with Sanderson’s shady real estate deals, Kemp eventually wakes up to his calling and tries desperately to salvage the fourth estate.
Depp is highly restrained and yet the debauchery of his character, Kemp, will be applauded by his fans. Based on the late Hunter S. Thompson’s novel, Kemp pretty much resembles Thompson’s own disordered, yet highly creative state during the time of rising Anti-American sentiment and cutthroat capitalism by American businesses (1960’s). Thompson in his 20’s penned a semi-autobiographical novel about hard-nosed American journalists drinking, screwing and occasionally writing during the upheaval in Puerto Rico at that time. The novel itself took 40 years before it finally got printed and “The Rum Diary” shall also receive the same treatment by critics.
"The Rum Diary” is a sweet illusion – fleeting, leisurely and unconventional in its charm. It’s a tale of corruption, but no not quite. It’s a love story, but then it’s not. And then it even tries to be a quirky journalism story but quits that too. Like the characters, it’s bizarre. Laced with unusual and witty dialogues, it’s got lust, lucre and liquor as the core to the script. Everything else falls to the wayside.