Hide the women and bury the liquor! Johnny Depp is having fun again. That’s the only takeaway from this long-gestating, not-quite-as-long-shelved adaptation of the “lost” Hunter S. Thompson novel. Written in 1961, published in 1998, filmed in 2009, and finally opening this fall, The Rum Diary is the story of a disillusioned journalist who escapes pre-Kennedy America for the sun, sweat, and alcohol-induced hallucinations of Puerto Rico. Free from eyeliner and the doomed-blockbuster paunch, Depp is in fine manic form, paying tribute to his real-life kimosabe by bugging his eyes, bedding Amber Heard, and not knowing all those travel-size bottles of rum weren’t complimentary.
Director Bruce Robinson — responsible for the equally frenzied, similarly sozzled classic Withnail & I — was apparently living a sober, frustrated life when Depp tapped him to adapt the book. (Directing Jennifer Eight can do that to a guy.) His writer’s block was reportedly cured by adopting the Thompson method — a bottle of liquor a day — so it’s safe to assume the spirit (and the spirits) of the novel will remain intact. Can The Rum Diary — which also features ace supporting players Aaron Eckhart, Giovanni Ribisi, and Richard Jenkins (sporting a truly epic rug) — overcome its checkered, blinkered history and actually be good? Or will it be roaring creative car-wreck, more fun for those behind the camera than those seated in the theater? The one thing we do know is the late Thompson — who once termed the project’s development hell a “waterhead fuckaround” — would be pleased with either outcome.