Tired of the noise and madness of New York and the crushing conventions of late Eisenhower-era America, itinerant journalist Paul Kemp travels to the pristine island of Puerto Rico to write for a local San Juan newspaper run by the downtrodden editor Lotterman. Adopting the rum-soaked lifestyle of the late ‘50s version of Hemingway’s 'The Lost Generation', Paul soon becomes entangled with a very attractive American woman and her fiancée, a businessman involved in shady property development deals. It is within this world that Kemp ultimately discovers his true voice as a writer and integrity as a man.
09 Feb The Rum Diary (2011)
I have no idea whether powerful art requires pain in the creator. I suspect not. But it is an unhappy fact that the actors that I appreciate must be seriously incomplete when not acting. Sean Penn and Robert Downey are the most interesting living (male) actors in my universe, but Depp comes close.
We all need a story to live in, to come home to and what fascinates is how focused these stories seem to be. You don’t need to identify with a token being to adopt their story, and I would not say that Depp identifies with Thompson. But then Thompson himself was reaching for something, someone beyond. So when Depp strives to be in the smell of the Hunter, it is the smell being hunted — scents all the way down.
For a very long time, Depp has publicly admired Thompson and performed what rituals a powerful actor can. Among them is this film, which I come to as something in between reading an interview wherein Depp presents his target narrative and a film intended to have agency as an independent story. As a standalone film, it is an utter failure — excepting a few lines and fewer images. The intended mood is never attained. Of all of Gilliam’s failures, the one success he had was the ability to create the man’s trace or order through fog (in ‘Fear and Loathing’).
But I will still recommend this, because the man openly carries his persona to his successful roles. Neither we nor he know just what that persona really is. But we do know what he wants it to be. Winona is long forgotten.
Posted in 2012
Ted’s Evaluation — 3 of 3: Worth watching.