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"The Beach"

Directed by Danny Boyle ("Trainspotting").
Written by John Hodge.  Based on the book by Alex Garland. 
Starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Virginie Ledoyen and Robert Carlyle. 
Release Year:  2000 
Review Date:  2/15/00


Let me tell you about a real man.  Charles "Chuck" Longer, roommate extraordinaire, came back to the casa about 11:30 last night.  He walked in, yelled "Late night wrestling!  Yeah!", proceeded to the loft for some Smackdown, and proclaimed, "Man, I'm hungry!"  Charles then cooked and consumed a full can of baked beans, a full can of corn, and two-and-a-half scoops of ice cream.  He then went directly to bed, and, at present, is wearing those six pounds he earned last night.  Now, I know that just reading this passage has made some of you double over in pain, and I just want to say to Chuck-daddy:  you, my friend, are a man!

I mention this because today's movie choice features one of the biggest men in Hollywood.  By any conservative estimate, Leonardo DiCaprio has been getting laid between 16 and 18 times a day (sadly, this, yes, is a measure of manhood) since "Titanic" two years ago, and since he spurned the moviemaking process for so long, this can almost be labeled a comeback, since he didn't even look at scripts for a full year.  So, was the layoff worth it?  In my humble opinion, no.  "The Beach" is based on a book by Alex Garland (no, I haven't read it), and from what I have read in other publications about the storyline, the movie stays relatively true to the novel.  Which, may not be such a good thing.

DiCaprio plays Richard, an adventurous type that has come to Thailand in search of adventure.  While staying in a downtown hotel, he meets Daffy (Robert Carlyle), a whacked-out guy that tells Richard about this amazing, beautiful island hidden away from it all off of the coast of Thailand.  The day after having the conversation with Daffy, Richard finds a map to the place, known only as "The Beach," taped to his hotel room door...and later, finds Daffy dead in his room from self-inflicted knife wounds.  Deciding that this beach might actually be worth checking out, Richard hits up his two hotel next-door neighbors (French actors Guillaume Canet and Virginie Ledoyen) to come with him, and the threesome head off in search of adventure.  After completing a nonchalant one-and-a-half-mile swim (at least, nonchalant in the movies), the three reach the island and eventually discover a community of other pleasure seekers that have made the beach their new home.  But of course, there wouldn't be paradise without trouble, and Leo & friends find plenty of that with violent farmers (yep, there is such a thing), sharks, and each other.

Recently, I had a conversation with some friends of mine about not being able to be all things to all people.  Interestingly enough, "The Beach"'s biggest problem is that it believes it really can be all things to all people.  This movie is part road flick, part "Romancing the Stone," part action movie, part psycho-thriller (as Leo goes over the edge), part "Lord of the Flies," part “Fantasy Island.”  About the only thing that doesn't happen in this movie is Leo breaking out into song...but, other characters do break out into Bob Marley covers during a funeral sequence, so I guess it does have song-and-dance.  Because of all of this, it makes it hard for the audience to real get into any part of the film:  if it had just stopped long enough for me to enjoy any of the characters, maybe I would have been more in tune with the story; as it is, there is just Leo and a bunch of other random people.  For some folks, that is fine, but not for me.  In fact, now that I think about it, there are absolutely no other even television commercial-quality actors in this film besides Carlyle, unless you know French cinema and are all excited about Ledoyen's presence in the film.

And, oh, Robert Carlyle:  how far have you fallen?  I can't claim to know his entire career, but after watching him in "Trainspotting" and "The Full Monty," I thought an American crossover wouldn't be such a bad move.  Now, after watching him flounder in "The World is Not Enough" and "The Beach," I have to wonder what is next for him.  Other problems with "The Beach":  support players are nondescript and unfortunately can't act; the hard-core house/techno soundtrack doesn't mix well with scenes of clear blue seas and laying around in the sand; certain sequences that require Leo to be tough come off as laugh-out-loud unbelievable; and, one of the worst endings of the year.  To be fair, the music is good, and I like house--it just doesn't make sense with what is happening on screen at all.  And, the cinematography and the beach's Thailand settings are absolutely beautiful:  all of the scenes with Leo looking at the blue-like-bonnet ocean are stunning.  But, not stunning enough to save as disjointed a movie as has been made this year.

Rating:  Rental


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Bellview Rating System:

"Opening Weekend":  This is the highest rating a movie can receive.  Reserved for movies that exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development, setting...or Salma Hayek.  Not necessarily in that order. 

"$X.XX Show":  This price changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently, it is the $9.50 Show.  While not technically perfect, this is a movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.  "Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca", but you'll have a great time watching.  The $9.50 Show won't win any Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see "Office Space"). 

"Matinee":  An average movie that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.  Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about yourself.  A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave the theater saying "That wasn't too, did you see that Lakers game last night?" 

"Rental":  This rating indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one."  Mostly forgettable, you couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the video store was out of copies of "Ronin."  If you can, see this movie for free.  This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a half stars." 

"Hard Vice":  This rating is the bottom of the barrel.  A movie that only six other human beings have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen.  A Shannon Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a movie.  Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or "Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!  (Warning:  strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard Vice"-rated movies.)

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The "fine print":
All material by Justin Elliot Bell for SMR/Bellview/ except where noted
© 1999-2009 Justin Elliot Bell This site was last updated 01/08/09