The Rum Diary (Blu-ray)
In November of 2011, Johnny Depp said (in an interview with The Guardian), that he didn’t think that THE RUM DIARY would do well in smaller towns in the US (including my hometown of Wichita) due to it being “…an intelligent film” because “a lot of times, outside the big cities in the States, they don’t want that.” I would agree that there is an issue with many ‘intelligent’ films not getting the recognition they deserve. But there are two problems with Mr. Depp’s argument: Number 1-Hollywood is as much to blame as local audiences; and Number 2-THE RUM DIARY didn’t do well (anywhere) because it just isn’t very good.
THE RUM DIARY defies a lot of the ways that I usually like to describe a movie. The story of Paul Kemp (Depp in his second take as a Hunter Thompson analogue) begins with a start – he awakens after a bender late for his interview. Kemp is a journalist who has just arrived in Puerto Rico for a possible position with a local newspaper. Once he accepts the job, we begin a journey into a strange world of Kemps self-destructive compatriots; sadly not the stylistic vision presented in FEAR AND LOATHING IN LAS VEGAS (1998). Kemp is a freelance writer who has yet to find his voice; changing his scenery in this dramatic way seems like it might be a great way to help him find it.
Along the way Kemp meets a few interesting (but mostly just boring) characters who help him through his spiritual journey. These include some decent performances by Richard Jenkins (as Lotterman, the newspaper’s impresario), Aaron Eckhart (Sanderson, a man who has a proposition that could make Kemp’s career), and Michael Rispoli (Sala, a journalist who has been on the island far too long). Sadly, none of these characters jump off the screen and the rest of the cast is… well… uneven at best. Even the beautiful Amber Heard and respected Giovanni Ribisi – two of the movies central stars – are one dimensional and cartoonish in most of their delivery.
THE RUM DIARY is a meandering story that eventually leads us nowhere. The point of the film with the benefit of hindsight is that the story is all about how Kemp finds his voice and decides what he stands for… but the movie never gives us a chance to care for Kemp. Right from the beginning Depp plays Kemp as someone just beyond your grasp. You want to like him because that’s how Depp plays him… someone so cool that if only you could get it, then it would all make sense and suddenly you would see how cool it is to be part of this little clique that understands.
I’m all for all kinds of movies. I like movies that make me think, I like movies that allow me to think about absolutely nothing, and I like movies that push my buttons. Sadly this movie doesn’t fit any of those descriptions… THE RUM DIARY inspires only apathy.
Video: (1080p, 1.85:1 Widescreen) The picture is clear and often beautiful with it’s amazing presentation of the original source material (shot on beautiful, grainy 16mm) if you can forget about the characters.
Audio: (English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio) The sound is absolutely phenomenal. This is one of the best tracks I’ve heard at keying into the environment of the film.
A Voice of Ink and Rage: The Rum Diary (12:39) Depp, cast and crew talk about their experience with the film, very much a love letter to Hunter Thompson. I admire their passion, though I admit I just don’t get it.
The Rum Diary Backstory (45:56) A pretty incredible documentary is included here in standard definition – basically the story of The Rum Diary, one of Thompson’s first works, as it existed for many years before he got it published near the end of his career. Included here are interviews with Thompson and some selections of him reading excerpts from his book. For Hunter S. Thompson fans, this feature in itself is worth the price of admission.
The Blu-ray also comes with BD-Live access and previews of additional Sony titles.