4 out of 5 (Very Good)
'The Rum Diary' - Resistance is the message
Satyen K. Bordoloi Sat, 05 Nov 2011
In one of the pithiest scenes of "Rum Diary" a lobster tells our protagonist, "humans are the only specie on the planet who claim a god, but act as if they don't have one." This comment summarizes the film and humanity that has turned the world into a "land of multiple outrage".
An out of work American journalist Paul (Johnny Depp) goes to Puerto Rico only to find that country an island of greed where a few Americans do their best to stanch-and-grab its resources while poverty and injustice infest the island.
"Rum Diary" is a quirky and witty film, filled with crazy characters with insane idiosyncrasies. But beyond the external veneer of humour and wit, lies a commentary about a world gone horribly wrong and each of our places in it.
All of us have either directly faced injustice or are aware of it omnipresence. While most of us close our eyes to this reality, some fight it. But it is a resistance that is seemingly futile since the enemy is extremely powerful and seemingly indestructible. And like Paul we realize that we cannot often win even when we try. If we know we'll lose, why fight?
The answer is that in a world of mass cruelty and violence like ours, resistance in itself is the victory we seek. In not catering to popular American fetish of celebrating victory and happy endings, the film does a great service. Because in reality, you don't always win. You cannot. You lose. And that is the message - even if you lose, you have to resist.
Like the films of Costa Gavres, its message is 'resistance'. One must fight even in the face of tremendous adversity when losing is imminent. That it is enough to simply discover a "voice made of ink and rage" like Paul does.
For the average viewer not concerned with metaphors, the latent wit and humour will give them a satisfactory watch, though the seemingly 'pale' ending is bound to put many off. However, the delectable acting of the ensemble cast headed by Johnny Depp will give them enough to bide their time.
For the more discerning viewer, this is a film made in heaven with a jazzy and witty exterior that manages to possess a soul. It manages to make a telling statement on society. The guts of the director to unflinchingly drop names like 'Union Carbide' (that caused the Bhopal Gas Tragedy in 1984) is laudatory. Sometimes the truth is better than political correctness.
The film is extremely allegorical. Paul tries to affect change as a journalist but fails, only to find his voice as a writer. This seems to suggest that journalism has failed to be the watch dog of our society and that it is now up to literature to take up that mantle to fight injustice.
In another moment in the film, the writer says that there is no American Dream and that it is merely a "piss puddle of greed spreading throughout the world". If you consider that in their 235 years of independence, America has been involved in wars with some country or another for over 200 years, you realize what that statement, and the film, means.
Critic: Satyen K. Bordoloi
4 out of 5 (Very Good)