Sunday, November 13, 2011

The Rum Diary (Bruce Robinson, 2011) -- B+

The Rum Diary may lack for the appropriately gonzo filmmaking of Terry Gilliam, but Bruce Robinson's no slouch either and, through his socio-contemporary use of hedonism, satire, and adulthood, might have even made a film that tops Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. In what initially seems to be a conventional, episodic narrative meant to playfully indulge Hemingway-esque male adventure, Robinson slyly inverts perception through cheekily allegorical musings on adolescent yearnings for autonomy, brazenly denying the efforts of filmmakers like Judd Apatow, Todd Phillips, and Dennis Dugan to infantilize the male ego. Not so with Robinson, who uses the Hunter S. narrative to embrace rebellion and burgeoning adolescence, not shun it via sexually inept sociopaths (this should be a catch-all for the aforementioned directors), nor merely use it as hero-worship (here is a film that's finally not so bloody obsessed with reaffirming the individual). Moreover, the use of fourty-somethings Johnny Depp and Michael Rispoli to play the good-natured dupes is brilliant, implicitly suggesting the film's fallibility/construction, a bizarro expiation of Superbadian mythmaking - The Rum Diary romanticizes drunken/drug-induced excess only to the extent that it has to, in order to achieve it's desired symbiosis of product/critique, recognizable in relation to its puerile counterparts. Furthermore, the ingenious casting/scenario becomes compelling when subterfuge turns to violence by the presence of local gangster/lothario Aaron Eckhart, especially in a scene that's a direct homage to Roger Vadim's ...And God Created Woman, the tenants of progressive, politically correct rhetoric a failure when it equally facilitates a uniquely American retardation, the inability of children to leave the nest and assimilate into the world, on their own. Tis' a double-edged sword, the line between excess and self-sustainability, but it's a valid question, pressing in its sociological implications, and one that Robinson slyly configures as inherent to the Thompson legacy.

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