Saturday, March 24, 2012

Review of The Rum Diary by Hunter S. Thompson

Per my recent post with link to review of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, I watched the movie version of The Rum Diary shortly after reading the book.  Loved the book, hated the movie.  My biggest problem with the movie is the elimination of one of the book's best characters, Yeamon.  I just do not for the life of me understand why the producers would elect to exclude Yeamon.  So much of the novel's best action revolves around him, and yet instead of the deep exploration of his character I expected, the movie just combined his role with that of Sanderson, played as best he could by Aaron Eckhart, essentially absorbing all of Yeamon's inextricable plot involvement into Sanderson's character without including any of Yeamon's real moxie.

The movie attempts to portray Sanderson as more villainous than he comes off in the book and makes him the boyfriend of the beautiful Chenault, Yeamon's girlfriend in the book and the apple of protagonist Paul Kemp's eye.  One of the most important aspects of Yeamon's relationship with Chenault in the book is how he beats her from time to time, leading up to the craziness that occurs when the two of them go to Carnival on St. Thomas with Kemp, and yet the physical and verbal abuse was left out of the movie, I suppose as a compromise the producers felt necessary when they rolled Yeamon's character into Sanderson and cut Yeamon entirely.  Sanderson, evil capitalist as they make him out to be in the movie, couldn't pull off Yeamon's brutal outbursts, the producers probably recognized this, but the movie would've been a lot better if they'd just cast Yeamon and been more true to the book.

Three other negatives in the movie were the expansion of Moberg's character, played in overly dramatic fashion by Giovanni Ribisi, an added acid sequence that felt very forced, and the absolutely horrible Hollywood ending the producers added, which I won't reveal here in case anyone actually reading this should ever be left on a deserted island with no other movie options besides this one.  Moberg's small part in the book was important and subtle, whereas in the movie he's made into a main player alongside Kemp and his other buddy, Sala.  It was a lousy enough decision to drop Yeamon, but to expand upon Moberg in attempt to make up for the error just made everything worse.

One of the things I loved so much about the book was the fact that Thompson wrote it before he experienced drugs.  Why Johnny Depp would bastardize the purity of this fact by allowing the insertion of an acid sequence is beyond me, but he did.  I suppose he (and the other producers) felt the need to show a transition from Thompson's pre-drug days to what would come later, and just couldn't resist an opportunity to fictionalize his first acid experience as if Paul Kemp really was Thompson and not just a character based on Thompson's Puerto Rican journalistic experience.  Another poor decision, they should've just had Kemp et al stick to booze the way they do in the book.

Finally, all I'll write about the ending of the movie is that it's just terribly stupid.  Why Hollywood always has to make up their own endings I'll never understand.

Having now gotten all of the above off my chest regarding the movie (thank you), I absolutely loved the book, here's a link to my review:


  1. "Loved the book, hated the movie" - I've had that experience so many times, that I've made it a policy to never see movies based on great books. some things just don't translate to the screen; and, as you mention, they often seem to muck around by adding or leaving out things.

  2. Hi, Li, and thanks for the comment. I agree with you, in general, and I can understand why you'd implement such a policy. For some reason, however, I'm always so darn curious about watching the movie adaptation after I read the book, even though it usually doesn't work out. In the case of The Rum Diary, they could've made it work brilliantly, and I expected more from Johnny Depp since he surely wanted to honor Thompson in making the film. I was extremely disappointed.