Saturday, October 29, 2011

The Rum Diary at the Moolah Theatre & Lounge

I've been looking forward to this movie for some time, and hearing great things about the venue for even longer (some Yelp reviews here), so this afternoon I put on my $6.97 trilby, my shit-kickin' boots and my Hunter S. Thompson tee-shirt from Literary Rags, and moseyed on down to dispatch two vultures with one  rock.

The Moolah is everything it's cracked up to be. It's a former Shriner temple, so naturally the architecture is magnificent: Ornate window grates, marbly floors, domed/chandeliered ceiling in the theatre proper, etc. It's worth the price of admission just to see the interior.

The concession stand is fairly reasonable as such prices go (which is to say only mildly outrageous), and features locally manufactured treats like Ted Drewes Custard, Billy Goat Chips and candies from Forest Confections.

Ted Drewes digression: I am not originally from St. Louis. Not too long after I moved here, Tamara and I were at an event at Washington University and there were "Free Ted Drewes!" posters all over the place. I just assumed he was the local version of Mumia or something. I finally asked Tamara if she knew if there was a rally or anything. She asked me what the hell I was talking about, so I started pumping my fist in the air. "You know -- free Ted Drewes! Free Ted Drewes!" She had a pretty good laugh over that.

But anyway, I still haven't hit the really good parts on the Moolah yet:

There's a full bar,  with movie tie-in drink specials. I had the "Sanderson" -- blended Canadian whiskey and soda. Not the bourbon I'd have expected at a Thompson film, but hey, it worked (and by the way, the staff at concession and bar were all very congenial).

I took my "Sanderson" in to the theatre area, where I had my choice of, get this, spacious leather chairs and couches with side tables. Very comfortable. In another day and age, there would have been ashtrays as well, I bet. The theatre features a very large screen. This particular movie wasn't really the kind of thing to test the sound system with, but it seemed more than adequate.

From now on, if the film I want to see is at the Moolah, that's where I'm going to go see it. And before or after, I may make a side trip to the basement, where I hear they have a very nice bowling alley.

As for the movie, it was a disjointed mess ... but in a good way, I thought.  That is, if you're a fan of Hunter S. Thompson, or of Johnny Depp as Thompson's alter-ego (and I'm both), you'll love it; if you're not, you'll probably feel like you wasted your money.

The linear story as such is pretty thin, but the atmosphere and characterization are just right. Not just Depp as Kemp, either -- I think Michael Rispoli as Sala (Kemp's erstwhile roomie and partner) and Giovanni Ribisi as the freaked-out Moberg (the San Juan Star's "crime and religious affairs" correspondent) outshone him, and that that was the way it was supposed to be. If you think about it, Thompson and his literary stand-ins are actually sort of passive characters, absorbing the weirdness around them and allowing it to shape their psyches. Aaron Eckhart as the bad guy, Amber Heard as the love interest and Richard Jenkins as the Star's editor-in-chief fill things out nicely.

Anyway, here's the trailer (with at least two shots that I just noticed are not the same as in the actual film ... hmm ...). You'll probably know right away whether this is your kind of film or not.

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