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Rum Diary

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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Francis of Assisi: Francis of Assisi was a poor little man who astounded and inspired the Church by taking the gospel literally—not in a narrow fundamentalist sense, but by actually following all that Jesus said and did, joyfully, without limit and without a sense of self-importance. 
<p>Serious illness brought the young Francis to see the emptiness of his frolicking life as leader of Assisi's youth. Prayer—lengthy and difficult—led him to a self-emptying like that of Christ, climaxed by embracing a leper he met on the road. It symbolized his complete obedience to what he had heard in prayer: "Francis! Everything you have loved and desired in the flesh it is your duty to despise and hate, if you wish to know my will. And when you have begun this, all that now seems sweet and lovely to you will become intolerable and bitter, but all that you used to avoid will turn itself to great sweetness and exceeding joy." </p><p>From the cross in the neglected field-chapel of San Damiano, Christ told him, "Francis, go out and build up my house, for it is nearly falling down." Francis became the totally poor and humble workman. </p><p>He must have suspected a deeper meaning to "build up my house." But he would have been content to be for the rest of his life the poor "nothing" man actually putting brick on brick in abandoned chapels. He gave up all his possessions, piling even his clothes before his earthly father (who was demanding restitution for Francis' "gifts" to the poor) so that he would be totally free to say, "Our Father in heaven." He was, for a time, considered to be a religious fanatic, begging from door to door when he could not get money for his work, evokng sadness or disgust to the hearts of his former friends, ridicule from the unthinking. </p><p>But genuineness will tell. A few people began to realize that this man was actually trying to be Christian. He really believed what Jesus said: "Announce the kingdom! Possess no gold or silver or copper in your purses, no traveling bag, no sandals, no staff" (Luke 9:1-3). </p><p>Francis' first rule for his followers was a collection of texts from the Gospels. He had no idea of founding an order, but once it began he protected it and accepted all the legal structures needed to support it. His devotion and loyalty to the Church were absolute and highly exemplary at a time when various movements of reform tended to break the Church's unity. </p><p>He was torn between a life devoted entirely to prayer and a life of active preaching of the Good News. He decided in favor of the latter, but always returned to solitude when he could. He wanted to be a missionary in Syria or in Africa, but was prevented by shipwreck and illness in both cases. He did try to convert the sultan of Egypt during the Fifth Crusade. </p><p>During the last years of his relatively short life (he died at 44), he was half blind and seriously ill. Two years before his death, he received the stigmata, the real and painful wounds of Christ in his hands, feet and side. </p><p>On his deathbed, he said over and over again the last addition to his Canticle of the Sun, "Be praised, O Lord, for our Sister Death." He sang Psalm 141, and at the end asked his superior to have his clothes removed when the last hour came and for permission to expire lying naked on the earth, in imitation of his Lord.</p> American Catholic Blog The joy of the Gospel is not just any joy. It consists in knowing one is welcomed and loved by God…. And so we are able to open our eyes again, to overcome sadness and mourning to strike up a new song. And this true joy remains even amid trial, even amid suffering, for it is not a superficial joy: it permeates the depths of the person who entrusts himself to the Lord and confides in him.

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