‘Rum Diary’ does justice to Thompson novel

Last week brought the arrival of “The Rum Diary,” a film adaptation of the novel by Hunter S. Thompson, starring Johnny Depp and directed by Bruce Robinson. The movie opened on Oct. 28th to an eager audience, since the success of the film adaptation of Hunter S. Thompson’s “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas” also starring Johnny Depp.
The film follows the career of Paul Kemp (Depp) as an itinerant journalist living in New York City. Living in New York, he grows tired of the city and the government, and decides to travel to Puerto Rico and write for a newspaper, The San Juan Star, based out of San Juan. When he gets to Puerto Rico, however, he begins a long process of drinking rum and keeping a diary of his exploits instead of working. What follows is a long and chaotic tale of different encounters with people on the island, most notably Bob Sala (a fellow journalist at the Star and Kemp’s “partner in crime”), Sanderson (a businessman that Kemp meets), Chenault (Sanderson’s fiancee and Kemp’s re-occurring love interest), Lotterman (the editor of the Star) and various other characters who help Kemp along his journey of crazed self-abandon. The film follows the same style as ‘Fear and Loathing,’ in that it is full of heavy alcohol and illicit drug use (although alcohol is more prevalent in this film than drugs) and crazed misadventures. It also matches the chaos and fast moving story that ‘Fear and Loathing’ gives to its audience.
The movie itself sticks very well with the novel. As with all film adaptations, there are differences from the source, but the differences are not that significant. “The Rum Diary” has very important subtext to it, including: the nature of the upper class in a poor country, a critique of American ideals and the power of journalism. But more than anything it shows its audience what passion really looks like, how it can teach, how it can enlighten and how it can guide each and every individual that possesses it, and also that it cannot and should not ever be controlled.
“The Rum Diary” also explores the idea of experience. It’s not just a matter of building your own experiences, but also looking at the perspectives of others’ so you can better understand your own. The subtext never becomes too important to the story because Robinson lets the story unfold at its own pace and he also lets the story be fun.
“The Rum Diary” has a basic underlying narrative, but it lives in the bizarre misadventures of Kemp and Sala; which was the whole point of Hunter Thompson’s novel. The critics disliked the movie for its chaotic approach, but obviously they didn’t understand what Thompson had in mind with the story. The story is supposed to be chaotic. It’s supposed to be fragmented. That’s what Thompson’s life was like.
“The Rum Diary” is currently playing at the Conway Towne Center and is rated R for language, brief drug use and sexuality.

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