My interests cover a lot of ground, but I can’t say I’m anyone’s Hunter S. Thompson fan. Don’t dislike the man, just not in my wheelhouse. I ‘got’ Fear & Loathing In Las Vegas as one big acid trip (and a good Terry Gilliam piece) but that’s as far as it moved me.
So I went into The Rum Diary without any real expectations. I knew with Johnny Depp again playing the Hunter doppleganger, this film was basically a prequel to Fear & Loathing, but that didn’t really shade me one way or another. Coming out of the film I still feel nonplussed.
As much as anything, I thought this film was a great travelogue (for the most part) for Puerto Rico. The story is about a struggling writer who finds his voice after spending many days and nights running wild and loose in 1960s Puerto Rico, but when you watch this film…you’re really just watching it. Admiring how beautiful the beaches are, how the people have their own culture. As one character remarks, we can act like it’s ‘foreign’ but for all intents and purposes you’re technically still in America.
Depp by Johnny Depp standards is extremely low key in this movie. No over the top makeup, not a huge stretch with the voice (especially since he’s done it before). He’s not on autopilot but he’s blending in with this role. Amber Heard has her moments where she’s a dead ringer for a younger and less curvy Scarlett Johannsen (and apple of the main character’s eye). Aaron Eckhart is as close to a villain as this film has, he plays his part. If this review feels middle of the road, that’s just how I felt about this film.
But, there is a nice sequence at the end of the second act which was as blatant as I can remember in recent memory on preying on the old ‘black man lusting after white woman’ stereotype. I mean, it was really blatant! So you have that to look forward to I guess.