Again, Johnny Depp pays tribute to his late, gonzo writing buddy Hunter S. Thompson by putting on the screen and starring in an adaptation of one of Thompson's novels written at 25, but not published until 60 with the star's prodding.
The Rum Diary is out (six years after Thompson's demise) and stars Depp, Richard Jenkins, Aaron Eckhart, and Amber Heard. It doesn't have the energy and abhorrent behavior (with chases and enough inebriation) of an earlier Depp/Thompson collaboration - Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas - as it may resonate most with those into Thompson and Depp's affinity with him.
The setting of Bruce Robinson's well-accoutered, broad colorful tale is 1960 Puerto Rico - like "England with tropical fruit." Depp's nomadic Paul Kemp is the kind of capricious, cynical protagonist fueled by rum and interviewing for a downtrodden San Juan Star for a toupee editor, Lotterman, endowed with absurd, droll persuasion by Jenkins.
A fleabag flat is where Kemp holes up with new close photographer chum Sala, done with seedy bonhomie by Michael Rispoli, and the crazier Moburg (Giovanni Ribisi) who claims he can distill 470 proof rum and enjoys LPs of the Fuhrer.
From voice-overs and the point-of-view of Kemp, Depp captures some of the peculiar, steely hyper-realistic rhythms of an artist in the making. In his new line of work, there's an unctuous developer in a suave Sanderson (Eckhart) looking to grab a pristine coastal area and have Kemp help him in his latest scheme. His Connecticut-based fiancee Chenault (Heard) doesn't seem to be that content which bodes well (for a while) for Paul.
An atmosphere of stale cigarettes, alcohol, and sweat adds up to an atmospheric retro fit with Kemp and Sala acting like dragons when authorities are on the prowl. But, Robinson can't stir up the episodes with the enough giddy, decadent conviction from Thompson's euphemisms. Overall, The Rum Diary may not be as intoxicating as some of its intense interludes, but even with a dissociative, Depp's dedication to his alter ego and maneuverings counters this cinematic hangover with some needed eccentric ebullience.
|The Rum Diary||C+||B-||B-|