Pleasure and pain in Puerto Rico

  • Rashid Irani
  • |
  • Updated: Jan 20, 2012 16:45 IST

The rum diary
Direction: Bruce Robinson
Actors: Johnny Depp, Amber Heard
Rating: ****

Back in 1998, Johnny Depp portrayed the alter ego of the drug-addled novelist Hunter S. Thompson in an acclaimed adaptation of his counter-culture classic, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.

The redoubtable actor embodies a Thompson clone once again in this audacious version of the cult author’s early semi-autobiographical novel.

The plot, which generally takes a back seat to some entrancing visuals, follows a young American journalist (Depp) who travels to Puerto Rico, circa 1960, to take up a job at a run-down newspaper.

Not much reporting gets done since the raffish rookie rapidly descends into a haze of booze binges. He is accompanied on his escapades by a jaded photographer (Michael Rispoli) and a bedraggled writer (Giovanni Ribisi) with a perpetual hangover. The film successfully evokes the terrors and highs engendered by consuming enormous quantities of 470-proof rum.

The paradisiacal Caribbean playground for pleasure-seeking tourists flourishes at the expense of the impoverished locals. Political chicanery and corruption are rampant.

For a while, the journo is even co-opted into writing positive stories about a dubious land deal developed by an avaricious American entrepreneur (Aaron Eckhart). Eventually, however, our idealistic writer’s anti-establishment attitude prevails. He decides to make the truth heard, never mind the consequences.

The acerbic script by British writer-director Robinson (How to Get Ahead in Advertising) packs in a wealth of incident. A sub-plot involving the romance with a blonde bombshell (Heard, sensuous in the Marilyn Monroe-Grace Kelly-Kim Novak mould) unfolds with considerable chutzpah.

All in all, The Rum Diary is a must-experience for the adventurous viewer.


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