Monday, March 19, 2012
Bowling for Rum
I watched The Rum Diary the other night. I knew not to expect much given the book was almost universally panned when it was released long after the fact in 1998. I thought Depp, who seems to have become the executor of the Hunter S. Thompson estate, or at least his posthumous spokesman, might do something with it, but it seems he and director Bruce Robinson pretty much played this one by the book.
The story owes more to Men's Adventure magazines than it does Rime of the Ancient Mariner, which "Paul Kemp" constantly alludes to. The time was apparently before Thomspon got heavy into drugs. He relied mostly on highly fortified rum to carry him through the day, "pressed" by the wild-eyed Moberg, played to great comic effect by Giovanni Ribisi, but at the tail end of the movie we get a drug that appears like LSD in the form of eye drops.
Puerto Rico is presented pretty much as one big real estate scam with ex pats spending their time bowling or lolling around on the beaches. The locals are portrayed as smarmy real estate developers, corrupt officials, wild-eyed natives and voodoo queens. The story doesn't go much beyond snapshots until we meet up with some former Pentagon type who has the inside tract on a piece of government real estate up for grabs.
This was supposed to be Thompson's Great Puerto Rican Novel, but it seems he couldn't find a publisher for it till long after he penned it during those balmy days of 1959. With all the political intrigue going on at the time, you would think a young Gonzo would have found more in the Caribbean than this tepid tale of bowling, rum and shady real estate developers. I give this one a C-.