The Rum Diary
Distributed by: Lakeshore Records
Reviewed by Melissa Minners
Based on the novel by Hunter S. Thompson, The Rum Diary revolves around journalist Paul Kemp (Johnny Depp) who, tiring of the New York lifestyle, travels to Puerto Rico to write for The San Juan Star. Kemp becomes immersed in the rum-soaked lifestyle of the island and becomes obsessed with a woman (Amber Heard) who is already engaged. When her fiancée (Aaron Eckhart) asks Kemp to write a favorable piece about his latest shady property development scheme, Kemp must choose between helping him out or writing a piece that will destroy him.
The musical score of The Rum Diary was composed by New Jersey native Christopher Young. After graduating college with a BA in music and doing post-graduate work at North Texas State University, Young moved to Los Angeles where he began taking classes at the UCLA Film School and mentored under famed film composer David Raksin. His first forays into Hollywood film scoring would be horror films, but since then Christopher Young has amassed quite a diverse résumé, creating musical compositions for Species, Sleepwalking, Untraceable, Creation, The Uninvited, Love Happens and more
The first thing you notice when listening to The Rum Diary Soundtrack is that the music heavily steeped in jazz. Craig Young was a jazz drummer, influences by the jazz bands of the 50’s and 60’s. Since the film takes place in this timeframe, it only makes sense that music inspired by that era would be a perfect fit. The titles of the songs may sound strange - Suckfish and Snake, Mother of Balls, Pink Jelly Remains, My Car the Cockroach - but the music is terrific. I love jazz and had a great time listening to the album. I also can appreciate that Young managed to infuse some strange psychedelic sound into the jazz as a way to describe the alcoholic journalist’s state of mind throughout certain scenes in the film.
Interestingly, one of the tracks I found most beautiful didn’t have that jazz sound. The instrumental version of The Mermaid Song, performed by Johnny Depp (who performs on a few tracks in this album) is a beautiful piano piece. It wasn’t jazzy in the least and I wondered what the song had to do with the film until I heard the lyrical version performed a cappella by Patti Smith.
Overall, The Rum Diary Soundtrack is a perfect album for any jazz lover. Craig Young starts off the album with traditional jazz, then adds some flare as he tries to enhance the visuals of the film and clue the listener in to the main character’s state of mind. Johnny Depp’s contributions to the album are noteworthy as he is an accomplished musician in his own right. And who can resist a little Volare sung by Dean Martin. The Rum Diary movie adaptation may not have done well at the box office, but the soundtrack is a smash hit.