I recently purchased the film version of Hunter S. Thompson’s “The Rum Diary.” It didn’t make it to the town I live in when it came out in the theater, but that’s not surprising considering it was not a huge film to begin with.
First off, I was not expecting another “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas” or “Where the Buffalo Roam” by any means. “The Rum Diary” is loosely based on Thompson’s early years in journalism in San Juan in the late 1950s. He wrote the book years before he developed his signature “gonzo” style. The book was finally released in the late 1990s.
Ok, this adaptation of “The Rum Diary” is not as spot on as Terry Gilliam’s adaptation of “Vegas,” but I argue that the intent of the book (ie: aging and lost in a world without direction) is decent. Once again, Johnny Depp portrays the pseudo-Thompson, this time the character is Paul Kemp. Depp does an incredible Thompson, but the thing that bothered me watching “The Rum Diary” was that Depp is a little old to be playing a 30 year old. It wasn’t so bad as to be distracting, but it did pop up in my mind as I watched the film.
One item bothered me (as did many fans of the book) was that they deleted a pretty major character, Yeamon, and basically combined Yeamon with Sanderson (who is relatively minor in the book). Aaron Eckhart does the role well, but it was a little disappointing.
I found the special features (though only two of them) to be interesting. One was a documentary while filming “The Rum Diary” and the other (more interesting) one was from Thompson’s friend and documentary film maker, Wayne Ewing, from the beginning stages of getting his so-called “lost” novel (excerpts were used in 1990s “Songs of the Doomed”) from manuscript to book, then from book to film.
Thompson unfortunately did not live to see the final product, but I think he would have approved of it.
I will have to watch it a few more times before I can judge were I would put it in the list of the three films based on Thompson’s writings, but I’m already thinking it’s in second place for now.