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Unveiling “The Rum Diary”

By Aron Agerton in Arts & Entertainment

February 9, 2012

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It’s been a good and long while since a film has come along that has warmed up my insides like “The Rum Diary”.  But the film is not for the common movie watcher.  It’s slow in places, but all the right places.  The character development is one that only people with an eye for detail can see, and though there is a bit of nip seen here and there, there’s not enough sex to carry the whole of the film. But what the movie does is show us so much more than what we expect from modern film.  The diary chronicles the first adventure of the late and loved Hunter S. Thompson.

To fully understand the greatness of the diary, you need to have a bit of background.  Hunter S. Thompson pioneered the art of what has since become known as Gonzo Journalism, where the writer says to hell with any sort of objectivism,  writes the facts with extreme bias and not only wants influence you, but will shout to the heavens to make sure you can hear him.  His greater and more famous works turned film include “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas,” based off of the novel of the same name, and “Where the Buffalo Roam,” derived from a collection of articles for Rolling Stone magazine.

“The Rum Diary” was actually one of Thompson’s first novels written in 1970, but wasn’t published until 1998 and for good reason.  The story itself has no context to the greater work of the man.  But put into that context, the film, and the novel, begin the journey of one of the greatest writers of two generations; two generations linked by a single life.

What is certain, is that Johnny Depp’s finest moments in his career are when he serves as a conduit for the soul of the original Gonzo.  He could have easily played the caricature of the man that Thompson would later become, but instead found a beauty in the man that Thompson once was, before he found a psychedelic chaos that would become his 1970’s.  Though, one of the best scenes was when Depp’s character, Paul Kemp, tries LSD for the first time.

Assisting Depp in the fight against the man are a who’s who of character actors, including Aaron Eckhart, Michael Rispoli, and the incomparable Giovanni Ribisi who was easily overlooked for Best Supporting Actor.  But this last point is no real surprise, since the Oscars this year have been overrun by overrated actors and a fat girl who showed depth by playing a super butch lesbian.  If we handed out Oscars for that, a quarter this campus would have statues on their mantles.  But I digress.

The film is a wonderful look at the risk a man has to take to be free and fight for the freedom of others.  More than anything it tells us of the event that sparked the fire that carried a man into the Sovngarde of writers.   With its delightful actors, its intriguing characters, and breathtaking storytelling style, “The Rum Diary” is a must-see for those who want to see only the best of what this medium has to offer. This is not Transformers.

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