People accuse The Rum Diary of lacking plot and structure. They accuse it of being thin and just plain poor. But you know what, I’m here in its defence. I’m here to say, ‘Hey, shut up, what do you know about movies anyway?’ because for me personally, this was an enjoyable romp. Even if you’re a film studies major it doesn’t matter, this is all about perception. And Hannah Story knows best.

Now take heed of these reasons to see this movie-

  1. Johnny Depp can’t do anything wrong. He is very very good, as usual.
  2. This is based on a Hunter S. Thompson novel. And he was a hip cat, and a fucking superb writer, so read the book if you don’t like the movie and you get a thumbs-up from me.

So my reasons for liking The Rum Diary go a little beyond those two reasons. A lack of structured plot was a drawback, sure; but if we take the film at face value, we can glean that director Bruce Robinson was going for something more. What I’m talking about is an attempt to recreate the fierce journalistic fervour of Thompson – drinking, irresponsible drug-taking habits, and all. And it’s his commitment to exposing what is lacking, ironic, offensive and immoral in American society that forms the crux of his explorations of the ‘American Dream’. And only by being fully immersed in a culture does insight come to the good journalist and results in fantastic writing. Now don’t get me wrong here – neither the book nor the film are autobiographical. They are however loosely based on the journalistic and ethical principles Thompson as a gonzo writer upheld. And above anything, Johnny Depp’s acting and the scene where protagonist Paul Kemp finally sits down at his typewriter to write an exposé are where critical focus should lie.

Kudos should be given to Kemp’s love interest, Chenault, as played by Amber Heard. I watched with bated breath to see their final hook-up. Because this movie is a Hollywood movie. It is by no means arthouse. There is an underlying romance and a happy ending and the truth of the social turmoil in Puerto Rico is glazed over, just as one would expect; so, while The Rum Diary has its faults, I think it’s worth looking at through that frame.

For me, I liked seeing the Puerto Rico scenery. I liked seeing Aaron Eckhart as a bad guy, and I liked the critiques of bourgeois society. I liked seeing representations of New Journalism in action, and I liked seeing Johnny Depp breathe fire. And shouldn’t that be enough?

Words by Hannah Story.


Hannah’s best friend describes her writing as 'like Hunter S. Thompson, except less engaging and less good.' Her boyfriend says she’s 'a good writer, but couldn’t beat Ernest Hemingway in a fight.' Apt. If you want a healthy dose of shoegaze, look no further.