My sister Erin and I went and saw The Rum Diary on Tuesday and wow, was it ever a disappointment. The commercials make it look like a wild comedy featuring Johnny Depp looking all sexy and decadent but, in reality, the film is kind of a mess that is almost schizophrenic in its attempts to be more than the sum of its parts.
Johnny Depp plays Paul Kemp, an alcoholic writer who goes to Puerto Rico in the early 60s and takes a job writing horoscopes for the local newspaper. The job leads to him drinking a lot and hanging out with characters who are sweaty and so generally grimy that it’s borderline revolting to even see them on-screen. (Giovanni Ribisi, giving a distressingly bad performance, is the main offender.) Paul also ends up kinda befriending (but not really) a businessman named Sanderson (Aaron Eckhart), who you know is a bad guy because he’s the only character who dresses in pastels. Anyway, Sanderson has a girlfriend named Chenault (Amber Heard) and Chenault really has no purpose for existing other than for Paul to fall in love with her and save her from a terrible future of being married to a rich, handsome man. The film starts out as a comedy and then, after about an hour, it suddenly turns all serious and preachy. It’s as if the film can’t decide whether it wants to be an unfunny comedy or a laughable drama.
Luckily, Johnny Depp is on screen for nearly the entire film and, as we watched, Erin and I quickly learned that the best way to enjoy The Rum Diary is just to allow yourself to be carried away by the Deppness of it all. Don’t think about how the film’s kind of a mess and how Aaron Eckhart is more of a designated villain than a real villain and ignore the fact that Chenault is a sexist fantasy and tune out the preachy dialogue and try not to think about how everyone appears to have had more fun making the film than you’re having watching it, and just concentrate on Johnny Depp being all kinds of sexy.
If you do that, The Rum Diary is a tolerable 2 hours.