The Rum Diary
After deciding to see a movie, we narrowed the choices to either Justin Timberlake’s futuristic sci-fi “In Time,” or Johnny Depp’s “The Rum Diary.” Left to my own devices, I probably would have chosen the JT sci-fi. Having to choose between Timberlake and Depp is a win-win for any girl. When my husband preferred the Depp movie, I was happy enough.
What I didn’t know was that “The Rum Dairy” is an adaptation of an early Hunter S. Thompson novel. Had I done the research beforehand, it would have been a no-brainer.
In recent years, Johnny Depp has become synonymous with his pirate character, Captain Jack Sparrow. Before that, we mostly thought of him as a Tim Burton puppet. Some of us even remember him as a teenage heartthrob on “21 Jump Street.”
Given pirate Jack Sparrow’s love of rum, I had assumed that The Rum Diary might be somewhat piratey, being set in tropical Puerto Rico and all.
I was wrong. The Rum Diary is not “Jack Sparrow Cuts His Hair and Goes to Puerto Rico.”
The Rum Diary, it turns out, is one of the best movies I have ever seen. It is set in 1960. Depp deftly portrays Paul Kemp, an alcoholic journalist trying to find his writer’s voice, and trying to make a difference on the planet. He is frustrated by his newspaper’s refusal to let him write exposé articles. The newspaper wants to him write articles to entertain and entice vacationers. Wealthy men want to pay him to shape public opinion in their favor. He cares about the welfare of the common man, and wants to use his typewriter to change the world.
I place Hunter S. Thompson in a category with Jack Kerouac and Ken Kesey, as writers who shaped the culture that ultimately shaped me. This film is a wonderful tribute to the late Thompson, and a clear window into American culture in 1960.
Watching this movie against the backdrop of current American struggles was enlightening; by 1960, the seeds that are now sprouting bitter fruit were already in the ground.
The Rum Diary is, in my opinion, a near-perfect movie. The dialogue is brilliant, each cast member shines, and the cinematography is breathtaking.
The Rum Diary is probably not a movie for everyone. This intelligent movie contains humor, romance, intrigue, drugs and morality, but not enough of any of those to delight the car-chase or rom-com crowd. While I wouldn’t categorize it as an art film, it will certainly appeal to those who like good cinema, more than those who want to be mindlessly entertained.