Thanks to prowling the Internet searching for free tickets to The Rum Diary, I managed to somehow make it to see a free advanced screening of the movie this fine evening in San Francisco.
To be fair, I wasn’t entirely sold on the movie. That is, until I started reading more about the antagonizing amount of time and effort it took for the movie to be made, and for the story to be developed into a workable on-screen narrative. With Bruce Robinson, the director of one of my favorite movies—Withnail and I—and the financial support of Johnny Depp, I was at least going to go see the movie, at some point.
But back to how the movie was free. Let me tell you—nothing is free. That’s because San Francisco will make you pay for it in one way or another. And before we delve into a Hunter S. Thompson-Rum Diary discussion, I’ll start with the pre-show entertainment. The line Devin and I waited in was really, just awful. It turns out, free things bring out all the crazies (myself included?) and boy howdy it was a spectacle.
A woman two people in front of Devin and I began loudly mumbling shortly after we arrived early to wait in line. When the movie workers came by to announce to the patient groundlings that they were to confiscate our cell phones upon entering the theatre, the woman became irate, and began urging moviegoers to storm the line. With the Occupy Oakland people not far from San Francisco, this did not seem wise. The woman then spent the remainder of our line time loudly screaming about anything ranging from this morning’s earthquake to how her magnifying glasses weren’t ever going to be strong enough to read the prices of popcorn and sodas at the movie theatre, and that it was “all a damn shame.”
Those of us who were strongly avoiding eye contact with the screaming eyeglass’d woman began crafting methods of deceiving the movie guards on their tyrannical cell phone decree. Plain and simple: we weren’t going to hand over our $500 phones without a fight. And even though we were there for free, we wanted to rebel. And so I did. The deranged man breathing down my neck behind me, who also happened to vaguely look like a shorter, more troll-like version of Jack Black if you squinted, suggested turning off my phone and hiding it somewhere on my person. I felt as if he too wanted to hide his phone on my person and I felt sick thinking about it. I announced to the line people and the trollmonster behind me that I would wedge my iPhone in my boot for safekeeping.
After I made it past Fort Knox with my iPhone hidden in my boot like a refugee, the guard asked me if I was there with the press. For a moment, I hesitated. I wanted to say yes, because I felt that I could be. A mini existential crisis then exploded in my mind- why am I not there with the press? I looked to Devin, thinking he was right behind me—but he had been had by the cell phone guards. I shook my head. No sir, I am not with the press. I am a groundling like all the other crazy people. Lead me to my seat like a lost cow.
Devin and I quietly reunited, both disturbed by our respective experiences. We looked at each other, perplexed, and the movie began.
The best performances of the film were by far, Giovanni Ribisi and Aaron Eckhart. Johnny Depp was a good Paul Kemp, and with him there, the movie just felt right. Ribisi’s performance of Mouburg during his Nazi tirades, the inane desires to murder his Editor in Chief and his obsession with dangerous substances in 1960s Puerto Rico were really quite fantastical. Eckhart’s blonde good looks as the role of Sanderson with a fake plastic smile made you want to hate him for the dirty rich bastard he was. And bastards were a-plenty in the truest Hunter S. Thompson sense of the word. The dirty feel of money, greed and power hungry people were rampant in the movie, and at times it all was a little too real. Why do the dirty rich people always have to come out on top?
Though the movie deviates from the book, the film is better for it. Robinson is peeking into this strange world that Paul Kemp wanders through, trying to find some sense of purpose or sanity in a cesspool of displaced Americans not in America who circle and huddle around some truth of real newspaper writing. The grotesqueness of Kemp’s surroundings: the dirty sinks, the bottles of rum, the heat and the crowds were vivid and true to Robinson’s transparent lens. He shows everything and suggests nothing. There is what you see before you, and you are left to make of it what you will. And Kemp tries to make something of it, and we want him to have fun for a moment in Sanderson’s rich world with the pretty women, and the beaches and the rhinestone encrusted turtle named Harry.
And even though I’m not part of the press, we were there for free tonight. And it was so much fun.