Looking through glassy eyes, itâ€™s hard to find focus, even if your intentions were to have a good time. Itâ€™s the same story for Johnny Deppâ€™s toast to Hunter S. Thompson in The Rum Diary. The heart is in the right place, but this one stumbles around a little too much.
The film is based on the long lost novel of the same name that Thompson wrote in the 1960â€™s, but didnâ€™t publish until 1998. Depp supposedly found the material amongst Thompsonâ€™s things and has since been key in getting the film produced.
The story involves journalist Paul Kemp (Depp) who takes a job at the San Juan Star in Puerto Rico. His sleazy editor Lotterman (Richard Jenkins) immediately sets the tone of the film by asking Kemp if heâ€™s drunk and how much he drinks. Kemp replies in a Thompson-esque voice â€śThe high end of social.â€ť
From there, Kemp is wooed by Sanderson, (Aaron Eckhart) a developer who has plans to get rich by developing the lush island. Itâ€™s Sandersonâ€™s attempt to control the media in his favor.
The film is somewhat autobiographical because Thompson did apply at the San Juan Star, but didnâ€™t get the job. Itâ€™s completely autobiographical in regards to how Depp, for a second time, entertains by channeling Thompson. Itâ€™s a treat to hear the witty dialogue come rolling off his mumbling tongue.
Another standout is Sandersonâ€™s fiancee', played by the luscious Amber Heard. Her character Chenault is like a beautiful tidal wave. Sheâ€™s literally the girl that talks you into speed racing the brand new car youâ€™ve just been given by daddy.
If there was a main point, itâ€™s how Kemp tries to use his righteous journalistic integrity to save the people of Puerto Rico from a greedy American developer. Still this is more of a rum fueled exercise in functional alcoholism. I feel like they touched on everything that Thompson was, but didnâ€™t deliver that gonzo element.