The Rum Diary is like a superhero origin story, several reviewers note: Set in Puerto Rico, it tells the story of how journalist Hunter S. Thompson became himself—complete with heavy drinking and plenty of sex.
- You get the sense that the film is a "passion project" for the impressive Johnny Depp, writes Betsy Sharkey in the Los Angeles Times. Puerto Rico is "beautifully rendered"—"even the poverty has an appeal"—but despite all that, Rum Diary never finds its voice.
- Thompson, it seems, "saw much of life through the bottom of a dirty glass and did not experience it with any precision," writes Roger Ebert in the Chicago Sun-Times. "The film duplicates this sensation, not with much success."
- In the New York Times, AO Scott calls the film "pleasant enough," adding that "connoisseurs of straw hats and cool sunglasses will find much to savor, as will aficionados of guilt-free cigarette smoking and midday boozing."
- Rum Diary isn’t "high art," writes Steven Rea in the Philadelphia Inquirer. "But in its depiction of a budding artist who got himself very high, it excels."
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