18 April 2012

Movies: The Rum Diary

The Rum Diary (2011) http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0376136/

Comedy Drama

Set in the 1950s, struggling writer Paul Kemp gets himself hired at a local newspaper in Puerto Rico. Well, he was the only applicant for the job, so... As he struggles to tone down his drinking (well, says he struggles) he gets caught between wanting to write about actual conditions for indigenous residents and the effects of American development on the island and getting swept up in writing brochures for developers who are eyeing a nearby undeveloped island to flood with hotels for tourists, basically making them into a mini copy of 1950's Puerto Rico. Along the way he develops a love interest in another American ex-pat, the fiancee of his developer/boss.

This is another Johnny Depp playing the protagonist in a movie based on a Hunter S. Thompson novel. But if you are expecting another film along the lines of "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas" that isn't what you'll get. Not by any stretch.  Like it or not, Fear and Loathing was rather off the rails. This one, not so much.

This film does have a couple of funny moments, some amusing moments, has it's "big money developers ruining the area" message to deliver, but for me ended up mostly a middle-of-the-road sort of film. It seemed to meander about. It has a lust romantic interest storyline between Kemp and the developer's fiancee, of course initiated through a chance meeting of the two before the developer ever approaches Kemp. Then there's the developer hiring Kemp storyline, the 'look at what development has ruined' storyline. Then there is Kemp's aimless wandering through existence inter-threaded to hold it all together. At least the interactions involving Kemp and his ex-pat roommates are amusing. Nothing seemed to change between the start and end of the film. It just happens.

The film was shot in some great looking locations in Puerto Rico. So that's good. Great period cars too. So for production, no complaints.

Casting - great job. Can't really go wrong with Johnny Depp, Aaron Eckhart, Giovanni Ribisi and Richard Jenkins in the cast. Michael Rispoli does well too, and Amber Heard is good eye-candy. The cast definitely makes this film work. I daresay a weaker cast would have made the film less enjoyable.

An okay-enough watch, but nothing great. If you liked "Fear and Loathing" you might be let down because all the reasons to superficially enjoy "Fear and Loathing" aren't here. If you hated "Fear and Loathing" you probably hadn't planned to see this one anyhow.  I think the worst thing they did was hint at any tie-in between this film and "Fear and Loathing." I suppose it was unavoidable considering this is the second film with Johnny Depp in a Hunter S. Thompson story and all. Heck they tried getting Benicio del Toro back for this one. To me that just screams a bald attempt to sell this film not on its own merits but on the merits of association with the cast and author of  "Fear and Loathing".  Then again, as Depp is one of the producers, perhaps he just likes the material.

Watching the film wasn't a waste of time, it is entertaining in its way, but I don't feel especially compelled to talk folks in to seeing the film. Pretty much a "watch if you want, but you aren't gonna feel like you're missing anything if you don't" sort of film.

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PS I considered re-watching "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas" to do a vs. sort of review because it's been years since I saw Fear and Loathing the first (and only) time.
Instead I watched the whole Harry Potter series of films again.

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