Depp’s adaptation simply not as good as original

NIcholas Sparling, Reporter
February 29, 2012
Filed under Reviews

Hunter S. Thompson was once quoted as saying, “Some may never live, but the crazy never die.” For him, this rings true. The recent release of “The Rum Diary” on blue-ray and DVD stands as the third movie adaptation of his work onto the silver screen, not to mention the countless documentaries made about his life and madness.

I have been anticipating the release of “The Rum Diary” movie adaptation since 2004 when I first saw Johnny Depp’s original portrayal of Thompson in the crazy ride that was “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas,” a movie based off of arguably Thompson’s most popular work.

In training for “Fear and Loathing,” Depp lived with Thompson, and being the method actor that he is, learned Hunter’s mannerisms, everything down to the way he moved and spoke.

Thompson was much happier with Depp’s portrayal of him than Bill Murray’s movie adaptation, “Where the Buffalo Rome,” based on Thompson’s journalistic coverage of the super bowl. Even though Murray and Thompson were good friends, Thompson was repelled by Murray’s job in the film.

Depp did not receive full admiration, but got the closest he could to Thompson’s ideal.

It was because of his portrayal in “Fear and Loathing” that Thompson had Depp promise to portray him in his first and second personal favorite of his work, “The Rum Diary.”

“The Rum Diary” was written in 1961 when Hunter was no older than 22. It was based on his experience in San Juan as a writer for a failing newspaper. The story takes place in the late ’50s. The book was narrated through the eyes of a 30-something-year-old man expressing Hunter’s fear of growing old and having done nothing with his life.

There was a secondary character in the book that was Thompson’s character that never showed up in the movie.

A grand disappointment for those who were fans of the book and looking for a strict translation, as I was, was to find the character named Yemmon to be omitted from the movie.

Instead, the character was combined with another character named Sanderson. It was a monumental disappointment that the character that was supposed to be Thompson’s view of himself in the time period was not included.

Other than being disappointing in that respect, it is still truly entertaining.

As expected, the movie is filled with rum and even an ambiguous drug scene where Paul Kemp, Depp’s character, and his photographer and roommate try “the most powerful narcotic known to man,” a drug I can only assume as being LSD considering the time period in which the movie takes place.

Many of the inconsistencies in the translation could be attributed to the writer and director Bruce Robinson who, before taking on the project, was sober for 6 1/2 years. When he experienced writers block, he drank a bottle a day, then again sobered up when the script was finished.

Although Depp has obviously aged since his original portrayal of Thompson back in 1999, “The Rum Diary” seems to play out as a prequel to “Fear and Loathing.” The movie hardly follows the book, but tries to make a political statement of greed and the rape of our natural resources, and this point it gets across quite well.

If you’re a Thompson fan, it is a movie that must not be missed despite that it may not be what a fan of the book would be searching for.

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