There were a lot of reasons why I wanted to see The Rum Diary. I like Hunter S. Thompson and I think that Johnny Depp was a good choice to play Paul Kemp. As an actor I’ve always looked up to Depp as he’s consistently great in whatever he’s in. While we’ve seen Depp’s charisma and charm work many times before, unfortunately it didn’t work here.
The root of the problem lies with Kemp as a character. The audience is never given a sense of who he is and why he’s in Puerto Rico. We know that other people think that he’s cool, but we don’t know why he’s cool. We know he likes to get drunk, but we don’t know why. Kemp is hardly even a lead character in the traditional sense. He rarely does anything; he’s just kind of an observer who happens to be in every scene. It seems as though the director knew that the audience liked Johnny Depp, so he cut Kemp’s build up. Laziness is rarely rewarded in film.
The other main problem is that the film doesn’t really have a central conflict. Thompson’s newspaper is going under and he’s being courted by a group of criminals for a reason that is never made explicitly clear, but neither of these seems to be the center of the plot. The film goes around in circles until two hours have gone by and then it has a rather rushed ending.
The supporting cast does their best to keep things interesting, but there are just too many questions that don’t get answered. Michael Rispoli and Aaron Eckhart mesh well with Depp, but we’re never told why they’re there. The two of them and Richard Jenkins all talk about this mysterious wonder of Puerto Rico, but its not something the audience can relate to since we’re never let in on this mysterious wonder.
The only real positive aspect of the film is Amber Heard. She is quite beautiful and her scenes with Depp are among the few highlights of the film. But her luscious blonde hair and her bronzed skin are not enough to salvage the film. No amount of hot women can make up for a lack of plot and character development.
I must say that there was one part that made me laugh out loud. There’s a scene where the negativity in the room causes Depp’s character to say that there were bad vibes. Those of you familiar with The Rock and my poetry know that I’m all about the vibes. Sadly, Depp was right. The bad vibes were present for the majority of the film.
Do not go to see The Rum Diary. It doesn’t matter how much you love Depp, there is little joy to be had in watching Depp run around drunk. The Rum Diary is like an inside joke that you’re on the outside of. You can hear it, but you don’t know why it’s supposed to be funny.