Without a high
The Rum Diary
PVR Pictures/Reliance Home Video, R499
When the special feature on a DVD is far better than the film itself, you know there’s something wrong. Everything was supposed to be top-notch here. This is a film based on iconic ‘gonzo’ journalist-writer Hunter S Thompson’s first novel (published much later in 1998) “The Rum Diary”. And it has Johnny Depp playing the thinly-veiled Hunter character of Paul Kemp. Instead of a swirling story of a young, heavy-drinking, idealistic journalistic who lands up in San Juan in Puerto Rico surrounded by things going to seed and about to be eaten up by greed, we have a plodding movie that slithers on from one scene from another with little to offer in terms of a memorable scene.
If there is one thing which saves the memory in one’s head, it is the character of Chenault, a trophy girlfriend of an American property shark, whom Kemp starts obsessing about and falls in love with. Played by a stunning Amber Heard, the reckless, passionate Chenault is the only wonderful danger in a film that’s as glowing as a used matchstick in an ashtray. For Thompson fans, though, a full-length documentary showing how the novel written in the early 60s is resurrected as a published novel and then a film. Shot months before he killed himself, this is a compelling documentary on the man who raged against a vicious world “full of bastards”. For this and Chenault alone, this DVD gets two hard-earned stars.