Bruce Robinson’s The Rum Diary

By James Calemine

I watched the film The Rum Diary again last night.

In 1959, Hunter S. Thompson was 22-years old when he began writing The Rum Diary. Published in 1998, The Rum Diary serves as Thompson’s only novel. Bruce Robinson’s film remains true to Thompson’s story. The film stars Kentucky native Johnny Depp, Giovanni Ribisi, Texas actress Amber Heard and Aaron Eckhart. The story revolves around American journalist Paul Kemp taking a job at a newspaper in Puerto Rico. Kemp struggles to find his own writing voice in Puerto Rico as he is surrounded by destructive distractions on all sides.

The alcohol-drenched characters operate amid lush landscapes of pristine beaches, virgin woods and dangerous chicken shacks. The film’s music ties the scenes together well. Subtle humor laces the film. Thompson’s images of Richard Nixon, cockfighting, carnivals, Samuel Coleridge, voodoo and oracles of the dead drift through these scenes. Some of Kemp’s final words in the film resonate after all these years: “This place smells like bastards…smells like the truth…smells like ink.”

Another tip of the hat to Dr. Gonzo…

Read how I was set to interview Hunter S. Thompson before he died in Insured Beyond The Grave.

www.jamescalemine.com

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