Saturday, 18 August 2012

Film Review | The Rum Diary (2011)

Set in 1950s Puerto Rico, The Rum Diary follows the exploits of Paul Kemp (Johnny Depp), a down-on-his-luck writer who has moved to San Juan to work for a local newspaper. The title is take from the Hunter S. Thompson novel upon which the film is based, and is a reference to the fact that Depp's character and his companions spend a considerable amount of time in the film drinking, and intoxicated by, rum. The problem is, whilst getting drunk can be enjoyable for the person drinking, experiencing other people getting drunk when you're sober is often less enthralling.

The film's main strength is in its cast. Depp is fine in the lead, although more and more of his post-Pirates Of The Caribbean performances seem to have at least a smattering of Jack Sparrow within them and Kemp is no different. Whilst amusing, it can be a little distracting to suddenly hear a fictional pirate captain when you're meant to be watching a 1950s American journalist in South America. The supporting cast is also strong: Aaron Eckhart does well as smarmy businessman Sanderson, and Richard Jenkins is pleasing as Kemp's jaded and exasperated editor Lotterman. Potentially the film's standout performance however comes from Giovanni Ribisi as the extrovert and perpetually sozzled reporter Moberg. Ribisi is almost unrecognisable at first, his performance laced with bitter energy, his over-the-top actions making his character both comedic and pitiable.

The problems come from the film's structure, in that too often it just doesn't seem to have one. There are plot threads which can be followed through the film but they regularly feel underdeveloped. The story involving Eckhart's character concludes abruptly and rather unsubstantially, and several elements of the film's final act - particularly one involving a witch doctor - seem to come out of nowhere. Too many sequences throughout the film come across as episodic and unfocused. Essentially, the whole thing feels a bit too disparate to engage with on a truly satisfying level.

Ultimately, The Rum Diary ends up as a fairly enjoyable film, but never threatens to become anything genuinely memorable. Much like a conversation with a drunk person whilst you're sober, The Rum Diary is relatively entertaining but without anything of substance behind it, making you long for something more satisfying and meaningful too long before its conclusion.


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