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The Rum Diary (2011)


Average Rating: 5.6/10
Reviews Counted: 160
Fresh: 80
Rotten: 80

Critics Consensus: It's colorful and amiable enough, and Depp's heart is clearly in the right place, but The Rum Diary fails to add sufficient focus to its rambling source material.

Average Rating: 5.7/10
Reviews Counted: 41
Fresh: 20
Rotten: 21

Critics Consensus: It's colorful and amiable enough, and Depp's heart is clearly in the right place, but The Rum Diary fails to add sufficient focus to its rambling source material.


Average Rating: 2.9/5
User Ratings: 43,698


Movie Info

Based on the debut novel by Hunter S. Thompson. Tiring of the noise and madness of New York and the crushing conventions of late Eisenhower-era America, Paul Kemp (Johnny Depp) travels to the pristine island of Puerto Rico to write for a local newspaper, run by downtrodden editor Lotterman (Richard Jenkins). Adopting the rum-soaked life of the island, Paul soon becomes obsessed with Chenault (Amber Heard), the wildly attractive Connecticut-born fiancée of Sanderson (Aaron Eckhart). Sanderson is … More

R (for language, brief drug use and sexuality)
Drama , Action & Adventure , Comedy
Directed By:
Written By:
Bruce Robinson , Hunter S. Thompson
In Theaters:
Feb 14, 2012
Box Office:
The Film District - Official Site


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Critic Reviews for The Rum Diary

All Critics (163) | Top Critics (42) | Fresh (80) | Rotten (80) | DVD (4)

It's funny as hell in places and touchingly warm.

Full Review… | November 8, 2011
Time Out
Top Critic

Writer/director Robinson is anything but disciplined... and he's more inclined to just turn the camera on and let Depp do his thing. Which Depp does very well, but as talented and watchable as he is, even he can't completely save the picture.

Full Review… | October 31, 2011
Toronto Star
Top Critic

The Rum Diary has no mighty gonzo wind. Even with a push from its Thompson-worshipping star, Johnny Depp, it leaves our freak flag limp.

Full Review… | October 31, 2011
New York Magazine/Vulture
Top Critic

Maybe Depp just doesn't want to upstage his hero.

Full Review… | October 29, 2011
Christian Science Monitor
Top Critic

The supporting cast of journalistic riffraff is uniformly excellent.

Full Review… | October 28, 2011
Globe and Mail
Top Critic

There was a reason "The Rum Diary" didn't find a publisher until a late-in-life Thompson resurgence, and it's clearer still in this adaptation - there's no real drama here.

Full Review… | October 28, 2011
Newark Star-Ledger
Top Critic

I'm glad Depp and Thompson were so close, and I'm sure Hunter would have been touched by the tribute. But that doesn't make it any fun for the rest of us to watch.

Full Review… | June 23, 2013

An entertaining but misfired take on the formative years of famed Gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson.

Full Review… | March 4, 2013
Concrete Playground

Depp and writer-director Bruce Robinson ("Withnail & I") pack the script with pithy Hunter-isms, hurling many of Thompson's euphonious locutions at us right from the opening scene.

Full Review… | December 30, 2012
McClatchy-Tribune News Service

Intriguing performances help The Rum Diary successfully capture the spirit of the source material -- even if the result is a scattered piece of filmmaking.

Full Review… | October 2, 2012

Perhaps this material works better as a novel, where Thompson would have been able to take his time developing each story as it occurred, but as a film, it just doesn't work.

Full Review… | September 18, 2012

Of obvious interest to Thompson acolytes and of no obvious interest to anyone else. As a fan of Thompson and Robinson, I enjoyed the film's laid-back shagginess.

Full Review… | April 30, 2012

A sprawling, superficial, sporadic story that fails to live up the expectations of it's inspiration, it's star and the previous cinematic incarnations of the man.

Full Review… | April 26, 2012
2UE That Movie Show

Feels like its been squeezed out of a tube rather than shot out of a canon.

Full Review… | April 2, 2012

For the most part, it's just plodding along with the occasional dash of humour.

Full Review… | March 21, 2012
ABC Radio Brisbane

It's been so fabulously written, wonderfully acted; Depp is no stranger to representing the essence of Thompson and he's brilliant.

Full Review… | March 20, 2012
At the Movies (Australia)

It's sort of chaotic. It swings around all over the place but it's nicely done. It's nicely acted and Johnny Depp's terrific.

Full Review… | March 20, 2012
At the Movies (Australia)

Johnny Depp gets lost in paradise and a film with no plot.

Full Review… | March 16, 2012
The Popcorn Junkie

After all the promise of a perfect cocktail, The Rum Diary quickly becomes like being the only sober person at a party where everyone else is absolutely trashed.

Full Review… | March 14, 2012
The Vine

.. engaging and entertaining, at times deadly serious in its own way, with lots to say . . . a satisfying and often funny telling of a great true story

Full Review… | March 11, 2012
Urban Cinefile

You can smell the debauchery in this rum-soaked Caribbean paradise where truth plays tug-of-war against complacency...It's a heady tale with seductive elements and Depp waltzes brilliantly into the tailor-made role

Full Review… | March 11, 2012
Urban Cinefile

Because the pace and trajectory changes so noticeably, "The Rum Diary" almost feels like three different films. Some may like that; I didn't.

Full Review… | January 31, 2012
Movie Metropolis

This very funny, keenly observant movie meanders in the best way possible.

Full Review… | January 4, 2012

There are some good things including a great soundtrack and strong performances from the likes of Giovanni Ribisi and Michael Rispoli, but it is a disappointing and overlong affair.

Full Review… | December 13, 2011

A literal-mindedness about Hunter S. Thompson's metaphors infuses the film: scary Puerto Rican natives threaten Paul and Salas during their wild nights, rich white men look overstuffed in their wicker chair.

Full Review… | December 7, 2011

[D]isappointingly unengaging... [F]eels sadly quaint from our perspective today, half a century into the journo-zombie infopocalypse...

Full Review… | December 7, 2011
Flick Filosopher

Audience Reviews for The Rum Diary


Paul Kemp: Why did she have to happen? Just when I was doing so good without her. 

"One part outrage. One part justice. Three parts rum. Mix well."

One thing you have to know before going into any Hunter S. Thompson adaption is that he is very polarizing, as are his books, and as are the films based on his books. Very seldom do you hear somebody say, "Oh yeah, Hunter Thompson is alright." No. You hear them say either, "I love Thompson" or "I hate Thompson." As for me, I love him. I've read many of his books, including The Rum Diary and have seen all the adaptions. This one falls between Where the Buffalo Roam and Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, in my opinion. It's slightly better then Where the Buffalo Roam, but not quite as good as Fear and Loathing.

Our character in this one is Paul Kemp. He is a writer who moves down to Puerto Rico to take a job on a newspaper that is tanking big time. Paul is what you call an alcoholic. He drinks, drinks, and drinks some more. He happens to meet a girl that is taken by a very powerful man in Puerto Rico, who wants to use Paul to help him make some big money. If you know Thompson, you know that his stories aren't very plot oriented, nor are they extremely character driven. There more... substance driven, then anything else.

The best thing about The Rum Diary is the cast. Johnny Depp plays Kemp in a return to Thompson role. Then there's a supporting cast of Aaron Rckhart, Michael Rispoli, Giovanni Ribsi, and the extremely beautiful Amber Heard. Their all pretty good. I especially liked Ribsi in a very bizarre, drunken role. His character is really "out there" and he plays "out there" very well. As does Johnny Depp.

The Rum Diary isn't a perfect movie, not even close. Adaptions of Thompson books aren't easy to make. The material doesn't make for a straightforward story on screen. The great thing about his works are how chaotic they are. There's nothing sensical going on in them; read and watch Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas for a perfect example of how chaotic his works can be. If you're a fan of Thompson, I think you should be able to get a good amount of enjoyment from this adaption of his debut novel. This isn't a great film, but it is a good deal of fun.

Melvin White

Super Reviewer


Directed (and written) by Bruce Robinson, GK Films, 2011. Starring Johnny Depp, Giovanni Ribisi, Richard Jenkins, Amber Heard, Michael Rispoli and Aaron Eckhart.

Genre: Drama, Mystery, Thriller

Question: What would your reaction be if you were hired to work for a failing newspaper, the editor doesn't care for the writers at all, you have a bit of alcohol problem and you can't find your writer's "voice"? Well, you actually have more problems than that but I won't give the whole movie away. However, I just saw The Rum Diary - a movie based on the book by Hunter S. Thompson and that's what's this movie is about, mostly.

If I were in a situation like that, my reaction, if you must know, would look like this: I would write about what I love (movies), really hope Karma works because payback's a bitch, have a few glasses of red wine or maybe I should try a gin and tonic, realize most days are like Fridays (best day of the week) because I had my "voice" all along. I would also befriend the staff at the newspaper because that's what creative minds do..find a support system that actually understands you. But this movie isn't about me now, is it?

I must say right off the bat - that the preview I saw for The Rum Diary was bit misleading. It portrayed the film as a comedy or a really offbeat story. Now, don't get me wrong, there were parts where I smiled and even giggled but I would call this a drama. Also, I am unclear why it was also listed as a mystery & thriller by IMDb. I didn't find it to be either.

The Rum Diary is about a man, Paul Kemp played by Johnny Depp, who moves to San Juan to write for a newspaper. He is an unpublished novelist who doesn't have faith in himself as a writer and he's a bit of a lost man. However, when he gets down to Puerto Rico he gets sidetracked when he becomes in involved with some unscrupulous people. Paul Kemp has a bit (understatement) of a drinking problem but apparently everyone on the island likes to drink rum. That's it - no more detail about the story.

I started off liking the film, it was quick, funny and I enjoyed meeting all the characters. However, the movie slowed down a bit towards the middle - to almost a standstill and I got a little bored. In fact, I almost stopped caring about the characters including the lead. I am not sure the vision of the book translated well to the screen but since I didn't read the book I can't be certain. Plus, something was off with the editing of The Rum Diary. It seemed like scenes were either cut short, cut out completely or some just added in to show off the dialogue. (I'll get the dialogue in a minute.)

There was one thing that I loved throughout this film: the dialogue. It was brilliant. I want to leave some quotes here but there were so many I could share that I don't think I could pick just one. Hunter S. Thompson was a stellar writer with his own unique vision of how to describe things. For that alone I would recommend the movie. Plus, Johnny Depp delivered the lines beautifully and in such a subtle way. I really want to see it again just for dialogue.

There is some narration in the beginning and then it picked up again at the end. Not sure why there wasn't much in the middle. I believe it would have helped when the story stagnated. Anyway, if you are writer and if you have ever struggled with it - and you know we all have - this story might just inspire you.

My favorite thing: So many great quotes. Wish I could manipulate words that brilliantly.

My least favorite thing: I got a little bored.

Rating: R
Length: 120 minutes

Review: 5 out of 10

Tired of Previews
Tired of Previews

Super Reviewer


Based on Hunter S. Thompson's long lost novel, this is not only a return for Johhny Depp to the world of his colleague Thompson, but also a return to the world of directing for Bruce Robinson, who had been in hiding for the last 19 years.

The story follows American journalist Paul Kemp who arrives from New York to Puerto Rico to work for a floundering newspaper. While there, Kemp gets caught up in the booze fueled hedonism of the tropical paradise, and also gets invovled in various shananigans (including a love triangle) with various colorful characters.

The story is heavily semiautobiographical, like the majority of Thompson's work, yet, unlike the last film adaptation of one of his books, this one seems more grouned and restrained, which is kinda good, since the film seems immediately more watchable. Of course though, since this is Thompson, everything devolves into a rambling plot free excursion into the odd and quirky. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, though. It's just an observation.

Not only that, but it is the thing I love and simultaneously hate baout Thompson's works. I dig that the plots are loose, and rambling is fine at times, but with him, all of his stuff was rambling, unfocused, and chaotic, and a little bit of this goes a long way.

As for this film, I liked it. It's a mixed bag for sure, but as mentioned above, it's immediately more watchable than Fear and Loathing, mostly due to the shooting style. How each film was shot though was/is appropriate for the book beign adapted. The cinematography is wonderful, and the location shooting is gorgeous, especially the 'real' parts of Puerto Rico.

Things do run out of steam after a while, and I do think that the film could have been more tidy, but it's pretty agreeable nonetheless. Depp once again takes on a Thompson alter ego, and of course he nails it. It's funny too, because, this is a Thompson work, and Depp's portrayal of Kemp is one of his more low-key and restrained performances in a long time. It's solid, if typical work.

The real stars of the show though, are the wonderfully offbeat supporting cast. My favorites were Michael Rispoli as Sala, and Giovanni RIbisi as the totally unpredictable and unchained Moburg. This jsut might be the best and most fun work he's put in. Richard Jenkins is good, though rather thankless, and even though I like Aaron Eckhart, he's rather bland and underwhelming here. I liked Amber Heard as Chenault, since she was a good casting choice, talented, and gorgeous, but she seems surprisingly underwhelming here.

All in all, this isn't a perfect film, but it's serviceable enough. It had been in development hell for a long time, and, even though this might not have been the best adaptation we could have hoped for, it's passable enough considering the circumstances.

Chris Weber

Super Reviewer

"One part outrage. One part justice. Three parts rum. Mix well."

American journalist Paul Kemp takes on a freelance job in Puerto Rico for a local newspaper during the 1950s and struggles to find a balance between island culture and the expatriates who live there.

I suppose we are to give Hunter S Thompson the benefit of the doubt. Some of his writings are historically invaluable and models of brilliant writing. I doubt many would include The Rum Diary in that category. Director Bruce Robinson (Jennifer Eight, Withnail and I) does the best he can with enormous help from Thompson's friend and biggest cheerleader, Johnny Depp. The film plays as an autobiography supposing Thompson's character Paul Kemp (Depp) would have been employed in 1960 at the San Juan Puerto Rico Star, a newspaper run by English speaking Americans trying to report in Spanish speaking land. The editor is Lotterman (Richard Jenkins) who just wants simple human interest stories that the tourists will enjoy. When Kemp arrives, Lotterman asks him what kind of drinker he is. Kemp replies "the high end of social". A greater understatement may never have been uttered. Kemp, and of course, the real life Thompson ingested liquor at a pace and volume greater than a marathoner takes in water.

Kemp finds a drinking buddy in Sala (Michael Rispoli) who is the paper's photographer. He is drawn into a shady land development plot by Sanderson (Aaron Eckhart), an American looking to capitalize financially by raping the undeveloped beach front land. He needs the help of Kemp to "sell" the project to investors, tourists and locals. Not surprisingly, Kemp's vision is a bit cloudy and he screws this up while also turning the head of Sanderson's lady, Chenault (Amber Heard). Depp does a standout job as Thompson again (Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas) with his speech pattern and ever present sunglasses. The feel of the 1960's is on display with fashion and autos, but this one just didn't do it for me. I suppose the message from Thompson here is that he did what he always envisioned himself doing, he went hard after the establishment bad guys and brought them down hard. However, this story rings a bit hollow and there are just too many missing pieces and too many holes.

Lorenzo von Matterhorn

Super Reviewer

The Rum Diary Quotes

If the Bible´s God´s book, why didn´t he give it to everyone?
– Submitted by Angela T (2 years ago)
Did you see the side of his nose? Blackheads like braille.
– Submitted by Angela T (2 years ago)
Paul Kemp:
Human beings are the only creatures on Earth that claim a God, and the only living things that behave like they haven't got one.
– Submitted by Amir V (2 years ago)
Paul Kemp:
Nowadays, people know the price of everything, and the value of nothing.
– Submitted by Jayfel C (2 years ago)
I thought you weren't gonna drink again?
Paul Kemp:
I wasn't but I finally beat my will power.
– Submitted by Richard D (2 years ago)
Paul Kemp:
Oh God, why did she have to happen? Just when I was doing so good without her.
– Submitted by Marco S (2 years ago)

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