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ON FAITH & MEDIA View Comments

Rum Diary

By
Kurt Jensen
Source: Catholic News Service

Smoke, drink, be hung over, repeat. That's the lusty refrain of "The Rum Diary" (FilmDistrict), although you would expect nothing else from a film based on gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson's roman a clef about his early years in the business, living in Puerto Rico.

To its credit, the movie—written and directed by Bruce Robinson and starring Johnny Depp as Thompson's alter ego Paul Kemp—doesn't try to glamorize the abundant substance abuse. It's set in 1960, when such behavior was considered part and parcel of newspapering, along with colorful swearing and perpetually rumpled clothes.

Kemp, like Thompson, is shown to be an idealistic journalist anxious to use pen and ink as his weapons against injustice to the poor, dishonest politicians and corporate greed. His rage builds, but because he's at a failing newspaper interested only in making tourists happy, he becomes a Jeremiah unable to let loose his jeremiad. That will only come later in his career, after he has left the island.

Kemp arrives at the San Juan Star hoping to change lives with his writing but is assigned instead by its unambitious editor to write the horoscope column and interview grotesque American tourists about what they like about Puerto Rico, which they see only from their hotels.

He gets an offer from a local developer named Sanderson (Aaron Eckhart) to moonlight writing brochures for a massive hotel project. Set on a government-owned island, the resort's construction will destroy most of the native habitat.

Kemp finds himself besotted with Sanderson's voluptuous live-in girlfriend Chenault (Amber Heard), who eventually falls in love with him, even though she's commitment-phobic.

Sharing Paul's adventures are Sala (Michael Rispoli), the drunken photographer he lives with—who finds cockfighting a lucrative sideline—and the perpetually high writer Moburg (Giovanni Ribisi).

Mature adults prepared for its portrayal of drunkenness and drug addiction should be able to handle this material, which in portions is unexpectedly sweet and nostalgic in the manner of coming-of-age stories.

The film contains implied premarital sexual encounters, brief partial female nudity, drug and abusive alcohol use, as well as pervasive rough and fleeting profane language. The Catholic News Service classification is L—limited adult audience, films whose problematic content many adults would find troubling. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is R—restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.

*****
Kurt Jensen is a guest reviewer for Catholic News Service.



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Andrew Dung-Lac and Companions: Andrew Dung-Lac was one of 117 people martyred in Vietnam between 1820 and 1862. Members of this group were beatified on four different occasions between 1900 and 1951. All were canonized by St. John Paul II. 
<p>Christianity came to Vietnam (then three separate kingdoms) through the Portuguese. Jesuits opened the first permanent mission at Da Nang in 1615. They ministered to Japanese Catholics who had been driven from Japan. </p><p>The king of one of the kingdoms banned all foreign missionaries and tried to make all Vietnamese deny their faith by trampling on a crucifix. Like the priest-holes in Ireland during English persecution, many hiding places were offered in homes of the faithful. </p><p>Severe persecutions were again launched three times in the 19th century. During the six decades after 1820, between 100,000 and 300,000 Catholics were killed or subjected to great hardship. Foreign missionaries martyred in the first wave included priests of the Paris Mission Society, and Spanish Dominican priests and tertiaries. </p><p>Persecution broke out again in 1847 when the emperor suspected foreign missionaries and Vietnamese Christians of sympathizing with a rebellion led by of one of his sons. </p><p>The last of the martyrs were 17 laypersons, one of them a 9-year-old, executed in 1862. That year a treaty with France guaranteed religious freedom to Catholics, but it did not stop all persecution. </p><p>By 1954 there were over a million and a half Catholics—about seven percent of the population—in the north. Buddhists represented about 60 percent. Persistent persecution forced some 670,000 Catholics to abandon lands, homes and possessions and flee to the south. In 1964, there were still 833,000 Catholics in the north, but many were in prison. In the south, Catholics were enjoying the first decade of religious freedom in centuries, their numbers swelled by refugees. </p><p>During the Vietnamese war, Catholics again suffered in the north, and again moved to the south in great numbers. Now the whole country is under Communist rule.</p> American Catholic Blog To replace our sins with virtues may seem like a daunting task, but fortunately we can follow the example of the saints who have 
successfully defeated these sins in their lifetimes. They provide us with a way forward so that we, too, can live holy, virtuous lives.

 
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