The Rum Diary: Handy Checklist for Reviewers

I’ll cut Regina Weinreich a huge amount of slack for producing and directing a documentary on one of my favorite writers of all times: Paul Bowles. (This is a documentary that I have not seen, incidentally…at least not that I can recall — Paul Bowles: The Complete Outsider.) But I have no idea what she is trying to say here in her Huffington Post piece about the premiere of The Rum Diary:

The fans outlying MoMA for the New York premiere of The Rum Diary were quadruple deep, awaiting the arrival of the star, Johnny Depp. Too bad the Titus I screening room was three-quarters filled. Apparently the star did not want a full house. Why? Let’s call it the vagaries of stardom. I had met Depp before, before his turn as Jack Sparrow turned him quirky. At the premiere of an earlier film we talked about his double roles in Julian Schnabel’s Before Night Falls (brilliant), and his passion for beat literature. With Hunter S. Thompson, it’s guilt by association.

As a scholar on the subject with a Ph.D. in Kerouacology, I spoke on panels with Hunter S. Thompson. At one academic panel in the mid-’90’s Hunter lit up a pipe and the auditorium’s first five rows inhaled in a grateful wave. Ah, that’s what we expected from Hunter, and that is what his reputation thus far is based upon: his irreverence.

Huh? I’m unclear on whether she loved it, hated it, loved or hated Thompson (who certainly has his share of detractors).

The closest thing to qualitative or committal statements I can find here are “It’s time to reassess Thompson’s contribution to American letters” and the following:

For me, the best part of this meandering cartoon movie is a sight gag with Depp’s Paul Kemp riding atop his sidekick photographer Bob Sala (Michael Rispoli) in an open vehicle, up and down, up and down over cracked cobblestones on bumpy streets. That’s as close to titillation you get despite eye-candy provided by Amber Heard as Chenault, and Aaron Eckhardt as her rich boyfriend Hal.


I suppose I could Google her, but I’d honestly rather just track down her Paul Bowles movie and write her movie reviews off as too precious, erudite and non-committal for her own good.

The fact of the matter is, any review of a film based on a Hunter S. Thompson book is automatically inadequate. No matter how wretched the movie is, the reviews must stand up to the inevitable comparisons to Doc G himself.

If I could teach a film review class, believe me, you’d get an earful. Here’s what you need to properly review a Hunter S. Thompson film.

Handy-Dandy Checklist for Reviewing Hunter S. Thompson Films

1) When reviewing a film, don’t mention the film until the last paragraph, unless your editor actually draws a loaded firearm. (Note: LOADED.)

2) Make sure nobody has the faintest idea what you’re talking about. (Ms. Weinreich seems to have gotten that one right).

3) Since nobody’s going to know what you think about the film, it’s best if you don’t waste your time seeing it.

4) If pressed by your editor to actually discuss the film (please note above: LOADED), please compare the film to a 13th-century Italian poem or some ancient Greek thing, or something, in the same paragraph that you compare it to something exceedingly rude (porn film, snuff film, a specific category of steaming turd. It has to be specific.) Also, discuss wringing the neck of some obscure ’70s political figure at some point during the review, if at all possible.

5) Where appropriate, suggest that the author and/or director should be made President and/or boiled in oil on live television.

6) The word “scumsucking bastards” should be used at least ten times. It doesn’t have to be written into the review, but you should mutter it while you write.

7) Include details on your drug use while “watching it,” or don’t even bother.



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