There seems to have been alot of ‘meh’ type reviews of The Rum Diary (2011, Bruce Robinson). I suspect this is all to do with towering expectations. The combined adulation for ‘Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas’ and ‘Withnail & I’ (an earlier project from this director), leaving viewers begging for some kind of ultimate mutant hybrid.
But this was never to be a bona-fide Hunter S. Thompson cacophony, so much as a suitable examination of where his great Gonzo voice originally whispered from. My main concern beforehand was that the film would pander too much to being like Fear and Loathing. I have the smug advantage of having read The Rum Diary, and while it is unmistakably HST, it is a world away from his later work.
And so I greeted the whole shebang with jazz claps, and pretentious nods of affirmation. The look of it felt right, showing the paradise people were drooling to buy, as well as the real vibrant streets and interiors of 50s Peurto Rico. The tone of it felt right, marrying the sublime, with the ridiculous, with the downright batty. The characterisations were affably wacky, depicting a gaggle of journalists who might one day shake the corrupt system, if only they could stay sober long enough to keep giving a shit.
And while this was never a film that would alter the foundations of perception, or some other grandiose thing, it was a lot of fun, and made me want to drink rum. Which were the two basic requirements in my mind.
Besides this, it had a certain integrity to the tipsy haze of its thinly veiled politics, which are still timely and relevant. There is nothing very radical here, nothing that hasn’t been commented on before in terms of beautiful unspoiled places, being stomped on by greedy corporations. But it’s still a hearty reminder of how ridiculous the world is, and a tribute to the wayward hack who was so good at articulating this.
Enjoy in moderation.
Over & owt