Sunday, June 22, 2008

The Beach (2000)

For years, The Beach had been on my movie list. I'd enjoyed the book by Alex Garland. I figured a film featuring backpacking characters would serve up something decent, in spite of the terrible reviews. I got it from the library (which only had it on VHS). I liked Leonardo DiCaprio back when he was in his Gilbert Grape, Basketball Diaries, This Boy's Life phase, but as he ages, the movies choices he makes leave me wistful for the Leo from Indiewood (although I loved The Departed).

The movie start is promising. Leo's character, Richard, has just arrived in Bankok, ready to start his backpacking trip. The movie captures the feelings of being on your own in a foreign land: the excitement of meeting folks, the assault upon your senses by new smells, languages and ways of life. He covets Françoise (Virginie Ledoyen), the French girl staying at same boarding house. He meets fellow traveler, Daffy (Robert Carlyle), who tells him about a secret island paradise, even providing a map. When Daffy suddenly offs himself, Richard invites the French bird and her French boyfriend to join him on his adventure to find this fantasy island that may or may not exist. But, guess what? It does exist and they find it. That's when this movie turns into a Thailand Tourism Bureau propaganda film. The landscape is lovely but the plot is flimsy. There's some drama from Tilda Swinton, as the queen bee of paradise, but  even Tilda can't save this mess of a movie.

Themes: backpacking, island life, friendship, travel romance, cults

Director: Danny Boyle (how could you mislead us so after Trainspotting?)

Genre: Confused drama

Time: 118 minutes

Scale: 3 (not horrible, but fizzles into a shambles)

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