By 'flat' I mean there are no real spikes along the way to really hook you in. The Rum Diary is a film about finding your voice and yet in search of a voice of its own. Entertaining, yes, but weirdly lacking 'something' to make it all gel together.
Depp channels Hunter magnificently (again) and the plot bounces along at a spritely pace, but it is entirely without focus in telling the real story of how the fictional Paul Kemp became Hunter S. Thompson. The bastards win, pessimism prevails, there is lots of drinking and a few brief honest glimpses of what it is to be a writer (the unflattering description of Kemp's CV sums it up). Sandwiched into the proceedings is a 'go nowhere' romantic sub-plot, a slew of set-ups that are deliciously pulled out from under the viewer as everything falls apart and pedestrian, almost TV movie direction from Bruce Robinson. Seriously, if you missed it at the cinema, the television/home cinema experience won't detract.
On the plus side, it is well written. Bruce Robinson's script is literate and layered - maybe too layered with various plot strands - but The Rum Diary could almost be a prequel to Terry Gilliam's 'Fear & Loathing'.
The film leads you along but takes you to the one place you never expected - a marina theft for a gloomy finale. Try and throw your expectations out of the window when watching this, it might even benefit from a second viewing, because there are lots of hidden treasures in The Rum Diary - they're just obscured by a rambling, excessive plot that burns out and manages to turn this flaw into a redeeming feature. Watch it, you'll know what I mean!