Paul Kemp (Johnny Depp) just arrived in Puerto Rico to work there as a journalist, since he couldn’t get a job anywhere else as he is pretty much continuously drunk. But that also means that he fits in perfectly with the journalists there. He moves in with Sala (Michael Rispoli) and Moberg (Giovanni Ribisi). Then he is quickly approached by business man Sanderson (Aaron Eckhart) who wants to use him for one of his real estate plans. But that’s really where trouble starts, as Kemp practically immediately falls in love with Sanderson’s girlfriend Chenault (Amber Heard) and Sanderson’s plans aren’t all kosher anyway.
The Rum Diary really has its moments but it becomes a little repetitive and then it runs a little too long. There’s only so long until you need to get drunk yourself to really enjoy drunken shenanigangs.
I haven’t read the novel, so I don’t know how close the movie is to it, but I really had my problems with the writing. For one, the adaptation falls into the usual trap of literary adaptations and uses way too much voice-over where it’s trying to be witty.
Plus, all the characters are pretty much caricatures and while that works for charismatic actors like Johnny Depp, Richard Jenkins, Aaron Eckhart or Giovanni Ribisi, the others flounder and their characters go under. Especially Amber Heard’s Chenault suffers from that. Though admittedly, what I’ve seen of Heard’s acting talent so far, she wouldn’t have done a much better job with a better-rounded character anyway.
It is much to the credit of those actors though that the film works anyway. Them, and the general craziness of those people under the influence. But at the same time, I felt that it made a little bit too light of the whole drug issue. As I have an addict in the family, I can only say: that is no fun, even if the hallucinations might be for a while.
Anyway, what kills the film most, apart from firmly sticking to the white man’s perspective in a latino country in the middle of a social revolution, is that it just becomes very long towards the end. It could have been half an hour shorter and would have been much more enjoyable for it.
Summarising: It’s okay, but not great.