Okay guys, we’ve got this complete crock of a movie. So, how are we going to sell it? Well, there’s this one clip where Johnny Depp drives a clapped out Fiat 500 while sitting on someone’s knee and they bounce along through the traffic. If we get Johnny to do the chat show circuit and only release that clip for the TV stations to show, everyone will think the movie’s a good comedy. Yeah, that’ll work. Do it!
I was one of the mugs who watched a TV chat show (might have been Jonathan Ross or Graham Norton) and saw the aforementioned clip, so thought it looked funny and was therefore persuaded to watch Johnny Depp in ‘The Rum Diary’. Fortunately I had the sense to wait for it to appear on American Region A locked Blu-ray, rather than take out a mortgage to go and see it in the cinema.
I sat down to watch the movie with my other half, for whom Johnny Depp can do no wrong. After 20 minutes, even she was losing interest while my attention had drifted to the contents of the fridge. I knew nothing about the film, other than it looked like a good laugh and we could all do with that nowadays. So, the movie’s based on the novel ‘The Rum Diary’ by wild man, journo Hunter S Thompson. Now, everyone apart from me seems to have heard of this guy. It’s a bit like one of those scenes in a movie where a crowd start singing a pop song in a bar and they all know the words, except for me. You get the feeling that life has passed you by at some point. Where was I when everyone else was learning the words to this song?
The film is a semi autobiographical (for Thompson) piece which has Mr Depp as heavy drinking journalist Paul Kemp arriving in Puerto Rico and laying waste to the contents of his hotel mini bar – every night. He’s there to take up a job on the local rag run by stressed Editor Lotterman (Richard Jenkins), who’s desperately trying to fend off closure. On arrival, Kemp meets the paper’s photographer, Sala (Michael Rispoli), who allows him to share his apartment when Lotterman decides that Kemp’s hotel alcohol consumption is too much for the expense account. Here he meets another alcoholic, Moberg (Giovanni Ribisi) with a penchant for recordings of Hitler’s speeches. Sala explains he doesn’t so much live there, as it’s where he keeps his uniform. But enough of the rich characters.
Kemp meets entrepreneur Sanderson (Aaron Eckhart) who, along with his syndicate, plans to destroy the beauty of an island formerly owned by the military by making it a holiday complex. In order to get his application approved, Sanderson wants Kemp to write a brochure for his holiday Mecca. It’s here that Kemp meets and falls for Sanderson’s girlfriend, the beautiful Chenault (Amber Heard). Along the way, Kemp and Sala are threatened in a bar by angry locals, they get arrested by the local Police, they get drunk, they take drugs.......
Around this point, I just didn’t care any more. I’d spent around 90 minutes waiting for the film to stop its meandering and take off. The remaining half hour brought no improvements. This film was Johnny Depp’s pet project as he’d promised his friend, Hunter S Thompson, that he’d get it made. They pulled in writer, Bruce Robinson to direct it. Why not an experienced director? Most directors would jump at the chance to work with a bankable star like Depp. At the end of the day what we have is a disjointed, unfunny, unlikeable piece of self indulgent hogwash.
I really wanted to like this film, but found the air slowly escaping from my lungs and I just didn’t have the will power to breathe back in. When you see the star’s name in the Executive Producer role, you know you’re in trouble because nobody is going to tell him he’s wrong. Johnny Depp just doesn’t look drunk enough, scared enough or even look like he cares when there’s the defiant journalist call to arms against the ‘bastards’.
In my desperation to find something good to say about this movie, I have to fall back on the scenery looking beautiful. Even the love interest, Ms Heard, lacked any kind of substance. I’m sure there are those who would claim that I simply don’t understand the work of writer, Hunter S. Thompson – and they’d be right as I’ve never read any of his work. Now, I doubt if I ever will.
Back to the film. This is an over long, unengaging piece that fails to develop into anything worth 2 hours of an audience’s time. Apart from that, it’s fine.
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