The Smell of Bastards and Truth

27 Oct

Attractive to look at but not particularly exciting to watch, The Rum Diary finds Johnny Depp in one of his more personal projects, one that won’t likely find a large audience — and deservedly so. Based on the novel by Hunter S. Thompson, a close friend of Depp’s, the film tells the story of writer Paul Kemp (Depp), who relocates from New York to Puerto Rico, where he hopes the lifestyle will be less stressful and the drinks more plentiful. There, he meets Sanderson, a shady businessman (Aaron Eckhart), who involves Kemp in a deal of questionable legality. As if that’s not enough, Kemp is distracted by Chenault, Sanderson’s beautiful fiancée (Amber Heard, sexier and more alluring here than she ever was on The Playboy Club).

In development for more than 10 years, Rum Diary is like a lukewarm beverage: It’s got some taste, but it’s certainly not refreshing. Other than Heard, the only other notable thing about this overly long film is the often beautiful cinematography by Dariusz Wolski, who captures Puerto Rico in all its seedy and glamorous charm. Not even Depp seems all that interested in what’s going on; it’s almost as if he signed onto the film (and produced it) as a favor to his late friend, just so it would finally get made. If Depp’s not interested in what’s happening, then why should we be? And that lack of engagement is what helps makes Rum Diary, to borrow a line from Richard Jenkins’ character, “vividly average.” So I’m giving it a C–.

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