Watching Johnny Depp in action is always a holiday for movie fans. Depp is one of these actors who can hold a film by himself, and in fact he does exactly this in many cases, included here. The problem starts to show up when the principal reason for seeing the film is that Johnny Depp is in it, and not much more beyond. The Rum Diary is a film that Depp wanted very much to make, it is based on a true story – the one of journalist and writer Hunter S. Thompson – set in 1960, by the time the history of the Americas was taking a turn. However it is also mostly a film for Depp’s aficionados and another proof that true stories or biographies do not necessarily lead to good films.

 

source www.imdb.com/title/tt0376136/

source www.imdb.com/title/tt0376136/

 

The dry story in The Rum Diary is very much about the profession of journalist, and about fighting personal daemons in order to be a true professional. A young journalist takes a job in Puerto Rico, a job he finds out soon nobody wanted to take. He is a drinker and befriends another journalist who is an even heavier drinker and the wrong girl owned by a local tycoon. He discovers soon that one cannot drink as much as he can or wants, befriend beautiful women, write good stories, and be honest at the same time. One may ask what is wrong with this story and why it fails to draw the attention although it has all ingredients of many other successful stories about journalists, corruption, exotic Caribbean islands and their fascinating and dangerous culture. Moreover, it is a true story! Well, this may actually exactly be the problem. We have already seen so many movies (some of them good indeed) inspired by such a true story, that when it is brought to screen closer to what it really was, it looks unsatisfying and deja-vu.

 

(video source VISO Trailers)

 

The good things – some very good cinematography and a rendition of the 1960 Puerto Rico which is both realistic and colorful. Then we have Depp – of course! The not so good thing – a story that does not really decide what it wants to be – political thriller, retro-history, comedy, with an anti-climax ending. For folks like myself unfamiliar with who Hunter S. Thompson was, this film does only tell an unconvincing story about journalism in exotic Puerto Rico. Director Bruce Robinson made a very promising debut in the 80s, another couple of movies soon after, and then stopped making films for almost two decades until this one. His fans may have expected more from his come back after such a long waiting. Good acting and sure hand in camera and cinematography cannot compensate the weakness of the story. What was supposed to be the strong point of the film eventually ends by being its weakest link. ‘The Rum Diary’ may raise in time to be better than the commercial failure it was on screens, but less than what it could have been with a better story to support the theme.