The Rum Diary:
Live to fight another day
The first glimpse of the highly talented actor Johnny Depp came on
the small screen as the young undercover police detective on the hit TV
series 21 Jump Street. Since his arrival to the world of screen acting
Depp has become one of the contemporary screen sensations who has
dazzled audiences with his prowess for portrayal of various characters
who at times are utterly bizarre such as Edward Scissrohands.
In the movie The Rum Diary based on the novel of the same name by
Hunter S. Thompson, Depp occupies centre stage as the main character,
the journalist Paul Kemp whose acting is one of the central elements
that drive the narrative. The story shows Paul Kemp as an author who
hasn't been able to sell becomes a success as an author, who hasn't sold
his book. He gets a job at a newspaper in San Juan, Puerto Rico.
There, he meets the inimitable Sala played by Michael Rispoli, who
tells him that he thinks the newspaper will fold soon seeing as it is
going from bad to worse in its circulation. One day while idling about
on a boat in the sea, Kemp meets Chenault who is skinny-dipping while
avoiding a Union Carbide party. The meeting strikes a spark in Kemp who
becomes allured by her although the meeting is brief and seems not to
promise any chance of close acquaintance.
Getting to know the social climate of the tropical paradise, Kemp and
Sala go on a drinking binge, which angers their editor, Lotterman played
by Richard Jenkins. Kemp also meets Moburg played entertainingly by
Giovanni Ribisi, a deadbeat reporter who is eternally drunk.
One day while waiting for an interview, Kemp meets Sanderson played
by Aaron Eckhart, a freelance realtor, who offers him a job writing ads
for his latest venture. Sanderson is engaged to Chenault, who pretends
not to know Kemp when Sanderson invites the latter to his plush
Later, Kemp moves in with Sala, with whom Moburg also shares house.
Kemp begins to see the poverty of San Juan, but Lotterman doesn't want
him to write about it, as it's bad for tourism. When Kemp drops into
visit Sanderson he meets two people named Zimburger and Segarra who want
him to help with a real estate scam. Later, Sala and Kemp go to a
restaurant and berate the owner for refusing them service; Kemp senses
that the owner wants to kill them, and he and Sala beat a hasty retreat,
pursued by angry locals. The police arrive and break up the fight, then
throw Sala and Kemp in jail. Luckily for the two at the dead of the
night Sanderson arrives to court and bails them out.
The next day, Kemp meets Sanderson's team, who tell him that the US
military is relinquishing the lease on some prime real estate. Zimburger
takes Kemp and Sala to see the island property, then they head to St.
Thomas for Carnival. Kemp eventually winds up on Sanderson's boat with
Chenault. Sanderson who is vary of Sala pulls up Kemp for involving him
in the deal. Later that night, they go to a club, and a drunken Chenault
dances with local men to provoke Sanderson, with whom she has been
The local owners of the bar beat Sanderson and Kemp and throw them
out of the club. The next day, Chenault is missing, and an irate
Sanderson tells Kemp that their business arrangement is over. When Sala
and Kemp return home, Moburg tells them that Lotterman has left and that
the paper will go out of business. He also sells them hallucinogens,
which they take. Kemp has an epiphany while under the influence, and
resolves to write an exposť on Sanderson's shady deals.
Lotterman returns to office and though Kemp's story is a scoop as an
expose of corrupt business, is rejected for publication. Later Chenault
shows up at Kemp's place, and is turned out by Sanderson. Out of spite,
he withdraws his bail, meaning that Kemp and Sala are now wanted by the
police. Moburg also tells them that Lotterman has closed the paper. Kemp
decides to print a last issue, telling the truth about Lotterman and
Sanderson, as well as the stories Lotterman declined.
To make money to print the last edition, Kemp, Sala and Moburg place
a big cockfighting bet. They visit Papa Nebo, Moburg's hermaphrodite
witch doctor, to lay a blessing on Sala's prize cockerel. They win, but
return to the office to find that the printing presses have been
Kemp continues his quest, stealing Sanderson's boat. The end credits
explain that Kemp makes it back to New York, and becomes a successful
journalist, having finally found his voice as a writer.
One of the things that the movie shows is that there may not always
be heroic endings though the characters make valiant attempts to see
justice prevail. In one way it is an ending that shows how reality works
while impressing on the viewer that one's first defeat doesn't mean a
complete failure of one's cause if one can in fact live to fight another