Never truly anything great, and Depp is clearly too old for the role, but there’s something so oddly charming and entertaining about The Rum Diary. Maybe it’s that there’s clearly a lot of love for Hunter S. Thompson on display here, and the film works best when you think of it as a love-letter to the days when the artist was trying to find his footing and artistic voice. By the time the film ends the true story and legacy has begun, and everything that happens here is just an unfocused, loosely connected string of vignettes that are amiable but offer no true insight into his character, writing, or importance.
The booze-filled meandering zig-zags between amusing adventures of Depp and his cohorts at an English-language newspaper in San Juan, Puerto Rico, and the far more interesting, but very predictable, origins of Thompson’s alter-ego raging against moneyed interests and predatory upper-classes. A romantic subplot is severely undercooked and incredibly obvious, but Amber Heard’s mermaid-like rise from the water is positively romantic and erotic at the same moment, a rare moment in which we can witness a goddess emerging from nature.
A fun entertainment that wanders around with it’s heart-on-its-sleeve paying tribute to Thompson’s legacy, but revealing nothing new about the man behind it. That may sound like faint praise, and maybe it is. But this is just a cocktease of what kind of outlandish, feverish, delirious gonzo-literature that Thompson would go on to create and perfect over his lifetime.