Sunday, 13 November 2011



I'd like to say hopes were high for this, the first Bruce Robinson film in 19 years (after the okay serial killer movie Jennifer 8) and a return to Hunter S Thompson territory for Johnny Depp. But really, hopes weren't that high. Bruce Robinson's most famous and most acclaimed film, Withnail And I, was a film that completely failed to resonate with me at all: quite inexplicably, I am absolutely unique in this and every other person on the planet adores the film to pieces. And I know I'm also pretty much alone in this but I didn't care for Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas very much either: maybe I'm just too old for that sort of thing. So putting the key ingredients of Withnail And I and Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas together in the same movie was probably not a recipe that was going to work particularly well for me.

And really, it doesn't. Sozzled struggling novelist Paul Kemp (Johnny Depp) arrives in Puerto Rico in 1960, starting off writing the astrology column and reporting from the numerous bowling alleys for the San Juan Star, but it's not long before he's sucked into the orbit of "PR consultant" Sanderson (Aaron Eckhart) and his shady cabal of property developers and insane rednecks planning to desecrate the untouched island paradise with hotels - and Sanderson's free-spirited girlfriend Chenault (Amber Heard).

There's an entirely irrelevant drugs sequence where Depp sees his fellow imbiber's tongue undulate across the room towards him courtesy of some dodgy CGI, there's an even more hopelessly raddled journalist (Giovanni Ribisi) on the staff, there's a vast quantity of rum consumed. Sadly, despite (or perhaps because of) the phenomenal amount of drinking involved, The Rum Diary doesn't really amount to anything. It's not a thriller because there are no thrills; it's not a comedy because, apart from a few nice turns of phrase, it isn't funny; it's not a crime movie because there's no sense of law and order and ultimately no justice. What it is, is a character piece about a character who isn't really very interesting. It feels like they were more interested in having the lead character develop his own voice and conscience than telling a fulfilling story in its own right, by simply putting him up against utterly evil bastards that are the easiest of targets: millionaire property developers, tax dodgers, nuke-happy lunatics.

It's not without pleasures: I liked the period detail (at least, nothing leapt off the screen at me as wrong), there were several neat lines of dialogue and nicely colourful characters, Johnny Depp's quite fun and Amber Heard takes her clothes off. But it's an unsatisfying and uninvolving film: I just left wishing more had happened.


No comments: