Movie Review: The Rum Diary

( #HunterSThompson, #RumDiary )

If you read this blog (or look on the left panel for “Gonzo Stories”), you could tell pretty quickly that I am a Hunter S. Thompson fan. Outside of his epic drinking and drug abuses, he was a man that understood the fine line between a news article and a story and then he pissed all over it. I read the Rum Diary 5 or 6 years ago and enjoyed it. Hunter had yet to discover the Gonzo form of journalism he made famous, but this book (and Thompson’s alter-ego “Paul Kemp”) was clearly a proto-form of his later style.

All that being said, Johnny Depp does an excellent job of creating a coherent storyline out of a book that does not really have one. All the characters are there, but in the book version, Thompson zones in on the drinking, the hangovers, the parties, and the sweating. It was less about the story and more about feeling what was happening. In the movie version, Depp cleans up the story and makes the antagonists more clear.

The movie also does a great job of explaining Kemp’s dealings with the real estate holdings group and his involvement with Sanderson. In the book, Thompson seemed more focused on screwing Sanderson’s girlfriend, the movie makes the whole situation more layered (and makes Thompson seem a little more gentlemanly). Johnny Depp does not do a balls out Hunter Thompson impression like he did in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, but as I said, Thompson was not Gonzo yet. Depp does a very good job at playing a twenty-something Thompson, not once did I think “hey this guy is almost 50.” The standout performance of the movie might have to go to Giovanni Ribisi’s portrayal of Moburg. Ribisi taps into the classic frantic Thompson energy and of anyone, he is the one paying homage to Dr. Gonzo.

I really liked this movie, but I give the warning that it is not for everyone. As the title might indicate, it is about a guy who gets drunk, not in a fun “Arthur” kind of way. It is essentially the story of how Hunter S. Thompson found his writing voice and got really messed up along the way. As Thompson once said, “Buy the ticket, take the ride.”

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