I’ve not heard of the movie The Rum Diary (2012) nor the novel by Hunter S. Thompson on which it is based. But I know who Johnny Depp and Aaron Eckhart are. I also know that Amber Heard and Johnny Depp are recently divorced and am curious about her.
The movie opens with the song Volare (performed by Dean Martin) during the opening titles. This bodes well. The story is set in San Juan, Puerto Rico in 1960. There is a demonstration in front of the El Star newspaper office. The first characters introduced are staff photographer Bob Sala (Michael Rispoli) and the editor-in-chief Edward J Lotterman (Richard Jenkins). The newspaper is facing an ailing circulation and they need to be looking for some enthusiasm, energy and fresh blood. This comes in the form of New York author (who hasn’t been able to sell a book) Paul Kemp (Depp).
At a party, Kemp is denied entry until he meets Chenault (Heard) who has just ‘escaped’ from the party. He becomes obsessed with her, not knowing that she is the fiancee of a shady businessman Hal Sanderson (Eckhart). Sanderson offers Kemp a job writing ads for his latest venture.
Throughout the movie, Kemp keeps drinking, and wants to write and expose on Sanderson’s shady deals. Lotterman would not publish it and closed the newspaper. Kemp decides to print a last issue telling the truth. To get enough money for the printing, Kemp, Sala and Moburg (Giovanni Kibisi, a deadbeat reporter who rooms with Sala) place a big cockfighting bet. They win but the printing presses have been confiscated by the time they return to the office…
Besides the wonderful music (from soft and plaintive to rock-and-roll to Charmaine by Mantovani and His Orchestra), there is beautiful cinematography of the lush greenery and lovely sea views on long drives along the coast of Puerto Rico. The car chases are of a different kind normally seen on the big screen. The dancing and marching during the native carnival are colourful and evoke a celebratory atmosphere. The fireworks are spontaneous.
Because the protagonist is a writer, there are quotes that I like: for example, Oscar Wilde (“They know the price of everything, the value of nothing.”) and Samuel Coolridge’s “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner”. I think I will look for Hunter S. Thompson’s books in the library.