Having finally seen The Rum Diary, Johnny Depp's supposed love song to Hunter S. Thompson, I am deeply disappointed. Yes, it looks good. Pretty pastel houses, gorgeous turquoise waters. Great work, Dariusz Wolski. And it had some fine acting, notably from Michael Rispoli as Sala, Giovanni Ribisi as Moburg and Richard Jenkins as Lotterman. Aaron Eckhart was fine as Sanderson. Amber Heard is lovely and for this version of Chenault she didn't have to be much more than that. But ...
The five things I hated about The Rum Diary
1. Johnny Depp.
Come on Johnny. You and Thompson were such good friends you were obligated to make the film version of the book. Okay. So you played Duke, the Thompson alter ego in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas but did you think about maybe handing the role of Paul Kemp, Thompson's alter ego again, off to a younger actor? Not that I don't love you, I do! But in The Rum Diary you are too fleshy, your hair is too long for your 1960 character and you are too old to play the 32 year old Kemp. Really, you are! And the Pirates of the Caribbean-inspired eyeliner? All too visible. And what was with the bell bottom jeans? No one - certainly not a reporter - would be wearing bell bottom jeans in 1960. Please, someone, correct me if I'm wrong. Maybe he picked them off some old sailor???
2. The great American novelist conceit.
The film added, ad nauseum, the element that Paul Kemp was a wannabe novelist, searching for his voice. It's almost like they didn't believe that wanting to be a truth-searching journalist with integrity wasn't enough. I just found it irritating.
They just had to add a scene where Thompson's character, along with Sala and Moburg, try a hallucinogenic. Yes, it gave us one creepily funny visual where Sala's tongue slithers out of his mouth but truly it was a pointless addition - a nod to Thompson's later years, yes, but it added nothing to the films' storyline. And it wasn't in the book.
4. Chenault as guiltless ingenue.
Her role in the book is much darker. She's a siren, a seducer, and Kemp can't resist. When they end up in the St. Thomas house party, she's the one disrobing and dancing in panties and bra. Her choice. The film opted to make the half naked black guy the predator (let's continue steretyping the black man, by all means!) unzipping her dress but in reality, she was there "asking for it" as people used to say. Naive, maybe. Innocent, no.
5. Kemp's relationship with Sanderson.
The film makes Sanderson the corrupt baddie, in the book it's much less obvious. Kemp spends a lot of time with Sanderson, developing a friendship. And while he loathes the idea of helping Sanderson spoil the pristine beach of Vieques, he's not in on any big scheme, and feels no compunction to write a story exposing the fraud. Kemp just takes the money and runs.
The film version added the element of the cockfight and the notion that Kemp would raise money from a cockfight to print one last issue of the San Juan Star and go out in a blaze of glory. A true Hollywood ending that has nothing to do with the book's quiet ending where Kemp simply leaves Puerto Rico, and perhaps, some of his hopes and dreams, behind. That's what I hated but I didn't absolutely HATE the movie. Despite the flaws, it was okay, even enjoyable at times. Nothing to write home about, but in the end, something to blog about.