The Rum Diary (USA, 2011)

rum_diary_ver2Directed by: Bruce Robinson. Even though the trailer seemed like it was baiting people on for Fear and Loathing 2, an attempt to transpose the surreal, eclectic, yet cultish marketability of Terry Gilliam’s masterpiece onto Hunter S. Thompson’s first novel, I was curious to see what this very straightforward, very un-Terry Gilliam plotline would look like onscreen (especially with Johnny Depp again). The problem with this sequel/prequel approach, to me, was that Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas was an avant-garde, gonzo-journalist, psychedelic, postmodernist foray into the American Dream, consumerism, and 60’s politics, utilized through experimental writing, and The Rum Diary was simply a good little novel, a little mystery-noir vaguely based around Thompson’s early years as a journalist with a Puerto Rican newspaper. With this film, Johnny Depp and Bruce Robinson (whose Withnail and I is a cult masterpiece if ever I saw one) have approached the material not as a story, a novel with a general resemblance to Thompson’s young life, but instead as a direct prequel to the insane, balding, ether-huffing lunatic we all know and love. I suppose this was what made me not like the film: the discrepancy between my own idea of what the novel was and the direction the filmmakers went in. Fair enough. But even as a film, it’s a bewildering film, a sort of anti-film. Viewers expecting a typical Hollywood story arc with clear motivation, conflict and resolution may be sorely disappointed. We seem to get those things, or at least, overtures towards those things, lip service to those things. But in the end, it seems like simply an exercise in hero worship—Hunter worship—on the part of Robinson and Depp: two tremendously talented and relevant artists in their own right, drawn into the abyss of uninsightful, exaggerated caricature of the Hunter S. Thompson brand. This being said, I can totally imagine myself revisiting this movie down the road and appreciating it as some strange example of disjointed post-cinema.

2 responses to “The Rum Diary (USA, 2011)

  1. Pingback: List of Judgements, Anno Domini 2012 | Offhand Reviews·

  2. Pingback: Filth (UK, 2013) | Offhand Reviews·

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