The Rum Diary starts in a hotel room, in Puerto Rico, in the 1950's. You are introduced to a man in something of a disheveled state. His name is Paul Kemp, a freelance journalist with a wee bit if a drinking problem. He has been hired by the prestigious newspaper The San Wan Star. Okay, maybe prestigious is a bit of a stretch, doomed fits better. Paul is quickly tossed down the rabbit hole and finds himself tangled in a web of love, lust, and drunken debauchery.
When I first saw the ads for The Rum Diary, it looked strangely familiar. And when I realized that Johnny Depp was playing the main character, it suddenly occurred to me why. Johnny Depp coupled with the amount of wackiness and references to intoxication in the previews completely reminded me of the iconic film Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. There are shades and influences from Fear and Loathing In Las Vegas sprinkled throughout the plot, but not nearly as much as the previews would have had you believe.
Once the feeling of deja vu subsides you will find an enjoyable movie. The twists and turns in the plot keep things interesting, and there is plenty of comic relief. Oddly enough one of the problems with The Rum Diary is the performance of Mr. Depp. I know he is a talented actor, but sometimes he seems to play the character it too straight. His previous roles, such as Jack Sparrow in Pirates of the Caribbean and Willy Wonka in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory work so well because they were wild, crazy, and fun. Depp just doesn’t seem to be enjoying himself, and it can be utterly agonizing to watch. The film is a bit too long, the look is a bit too polished, and some of the character arcs leave something to be desired.
Despite all of its flaws, The Rum Diary is extremely watchable. It has enough fun to distract you for a little while, and can occasionally be quite profound. The script is well designed and the characters are colorful. With a Rotten Tomatoes score of %50, it will not change your life, but there are worse ways to spend a couple hours.
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