The Rum Diary (Movie Review)

How often in life do we meet people that we know are just a perfect piece in our puzzle of life? Johnny Depp and Hunter S. Thompson’s friendship began in a bar, Christmas 1994 Aspen, Colorado not far from Thompson’s home. The two bonded instantly the first time they met. Johnny was a fan of Hunter since reading “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas” as a teenager. Depp went on to play Thompson’s alter ego in the movie of the same name in 1998. While preparing for this role Johnny moved into Hunter’s basement, studying his habits and mannerisms. While going through the basement he found a manuscript titled “The Rum Diary” written by Thompson when he was in his twenties. Depp convinced Thompson to publish it and Thompson agreed as long as they did a film version. 


After Hunter’s suicide in 2005, Johnny was committed to bring the story to the big screen and I am so glad he did, it was truly a labor of love for him. Oh and by the way Johnny I have a basement, you can come stay with me anytime you want!

Bruce Robinson (Withnail & I) was chosen by Depp and Thompson to write the screen play and direct.

Even though Hunter is not with us, Johnny made him a spectral producer from beyond, insisting there be a chair for Thompson, an ashtray, a pack cigarettes, and a bottle of Chivas Regal and a glass. Each morning Depp and Robinson would pour a drink for Thompson. Eccentric, yes. Kindred souls, yes. This is the kind of friendship Johnny and Hunter had, partners in crime, pranksters, and will continue to have; even death cannot break that bond between them. According to Aaron Eckhart “Everybody was there for Johnny, and Johnny was there for the love of the man.  That was palpable on the set, between Hunter’s chair and their sacrament to him each day.”

Johnny Depp plays Paul Kemp who is Hunter S. Thompson in his twenties. I know a lot of people are going to say he is too old for this part. Personally I couldn’t image anyone else playing this role. Johnny knows him so well. Rum Diary is not like Fear and Loathing; you’re not on that constant drug trip. In this movie he is drunk most of the time from his new found taste for rum, but they do experiment with LSD, Kemp is hilarious, I love his facial expressions during his trip. I found myself laughing a lot during the whole movie.

In the beginning of the movie Paul Kemp (Depp) wakes up with a hang over, he looks terrible, chews some aspirin and tries to collect himself for his interview at the San Juan Star. Kemp has moved to Puerto Rico to try his hand as a newspaper reporter. Armed with his bogus resume and his sun glasses he lands the job as a horoscope writer. Lotterman (Richard Jenkins) who is the editor in chief is at the end of his rope trying to keep the newspaper going. During the interview Lotterman asks Kemp what kind of drinker he is, Kemp replies that he’s at “the upper end of social.”

Sala (Michael Rispoli) is the newspaper photographer, he and Kemp become friends and offers to let Kemp move in with him. It is a dump of an apartment that Sala shares with Moburg (Giovanni Ribisi) a dirty, drugged out alcoholic who listens to Hilter records.

He was funny, crazy, eccentric and plain old fun to watch.  Oh and did I mention he also works at the newspaper as a crime reporter.

Aaron Eckhart plays an American businessman named Sanderson; he immediately tries to bring Kemp into a big business deal he is trying to develop on a nearby island. He wants to build a hotel and he wants to use Kemps words in the Star to help convince the locals that this is would be a good thing for them and to try to improve the relationship between them. What can I say about Aaron Eckhard’s performance? Nothing except….WOW!  He plays a really great underhanded, despicable creep and some may even say the role wasn’t big enough for him but he was just amazing and truly showed his acting abilities.

Sanderson’s beautiful, young, sexy fiancée, Chenault is played by Amber Heard. The first time Kemp met Chenault, he was in a paddle boat, she popped up out of the water, while skinny dipping. Kemp falls for Chenault instantly, he mutters to himself “Oh God, why did she have to happen?”  Chenault is torn between Sanderson’s money and love of Kemp. Amber Heard was absolutely stunning in this film; she was young and carefree, hard not to like her. Depp and Heard’s on screen chemistry was obvious and made me want them to be together.

The Rum Diary is about America’s corruption of Puerto Rico. It is a battle of the poverty stricken locals and the wealthy Americans who use their land to make money, but treat the locals like they are the intruders.

It is Kemp’s struggle to find his words either to help Sanderson become even wealthier and destroy the beautiful beaches of Puerto Rico or to use his word to take the bastards down. We see Kemp evolve into the writer he wants to become.  We take a journey filled with drinking, cock fights, cops, romance, human flame throwers and a lot of laughs for the audience.

If you are looking for the version of Hunter S Thompson from Fear and Loathing, you will not find it in this film. Both roles are such drastically different performances but both equally engaging in their own right..

Johnny is so sexy, I almost found myself so engrossed in him that I practically missed the dialogue. I love Johnny and this is just another film of his I can watch over and over.

This is a movie you have to watch again and again to catch every nuance and every joke and every awesome Kemp expression. While there were slow parts and one scene that implied a rape but was glossed over tactfully, I HAVE to give this a solid four out of five dogs.


Final Thoughts 



12 Responses to “The Rum Diary (Movie Review)”

  1. Brian White

    I will have to check this out on Blu-ray, if for nothing else…Amber Heard! 🙂

  2. Tina

    Mary, I want to see this one for Johnny. Not Amber, sorry not into girls.

  3. Patrick

    It looks like a really good movie. Can’t justify me spending the money to see in in theaters. I think I will wait till Mary buys this on DVD and watch it then. Fear and Loathing was a mind trip and this looks to be just as amazing.

  4. Mary

    Thanks Tina, that is good to know!
    And Patrick you are CHEAP! Also I will be getting this on Blu-ray not DVD!

  5. Brian White

    Some girls can be mistaken as men.

  6. Sean Ferguson

    Nice job Mary! I see your love of Johnny Depp is still intact!

  7. Mary

    Good call Brian….Emma Stone.
    And thanks Sean, some things never change for me. I have loved Johnny since I sat in the front row of the theater back in 1984 and saw Nightmare on Elm Street.

  8. Quinn

    I personally do not enjoy Amber Heard…. but I love Johnny! And I have not found a movie that I haven’t enjoyed Giovanni Ribisi in. All in all, I would see this movie again… hopefully to catch some of the little things that I missed the first time.
    And besides, who wouldn’t want to go to Puerto Rico after seeing this movie? LOL

  9. Brian White

    That comment about Amber Heard, Quinn, sounds like someone was twisting your arm to say.

  10. Quinn

    Brian, I am perfectly capable of forming my own opinions – arm twisting is not necessary when the opinion is correct

  11. Gerard Iribe

    Amber Heard is hot.

  12. Justine E.

    Mary, we tend to agree on most movies so I’m taking your word for it on this one.