The Beach

"OK"

The Beach Review


One would think that edgy, hallucinogenic "Trainspotting" team of Danny Boyle (director) and John Hodge (screenwriter) would be a perfect pair to adapt "The Beach," prodigy-novelist Alex Garland's edgy, hallucinogenic, travelogue about Southeast Asian adventure gone awry for a GenX-er with wanderlust.

Such a marriage of sensation-spawning literary innovation and cinematic audacity should, at the very least, produce a film that is engrossing, if not hypnotic.

But it appears 20th Century Fox put Boyle on a pretty short leash after investing $20 million to secure Leonardo Dicaprio for the movie's lead, because on film the final product is an utterly common and uninvolving amalgam of paradise photography, detached pop psychology and watered-down danger.

A study in the selfish heedlessness of prosperous Western youth, "The Beach" opens in Bangkok, where backpacking fringe tourist Richard (DiCaprio) has landed in search of the kind of international experiences that might make him feel more worldly.

Crashing in a dilapidated flophouse, he encounters a rambling, drug-ravaged, expatriate Scotsman (Robert Carlyle), who spins a seemingly tall tale about a colony of civilization-shunning former globetrotters hidden on an island paradise. Richard wakes the next morning to find the Scot dead by his own hand and a hastily-sketched map tacked to his door.

Resolved to find this utopia, he invites a 20-ish French couple (Guillaume Canet and the lithesome, lovely Virginie Ledoyen) staying in the room next door to come along. Their trip takes them across Thailand, through the lives of some American stoner dudes (for whom Richard foolishly copies the map), swimming a wide, gorgeously tropical channel and onto the pristine island -- where they're forced to hide from heavily-armed marijuana farmers before finally finding the fabled commune.

Part "Robinson Crusoe," part "Lord of the Flies," "The Beach" tries to build peril and gravity around the tension that begins to crack this strangely impersonal community and its increasingly abnormal ideals. But the edge the picture aspires to is conspicuously wanting. Thanks to the comely head-shot casting of extras and a noticeably inconsistent soundtrack (the unoriginal, magic paradise score yields to frequent, ill-fitting Lilith Fair ditties), "The Beach" often comes off more like a dark, tragically hip "Gilligan's Island" populated by pouty, petulant, Gap ad models.

DiCaprio makes a decent enough poster boy for generational apathy, but he doesn't give Richard enough depth to forgive his rotten judgment, his lack of individuality and absence of accountability. His languid voice-overs are peppered with unprofound video game allusions, and even when he becomes isolated from the colony and starts losing his mind, it's like watching him from behind safety glass. "The Beach" never reaches out beyond screen.

Having apparently compromised his ingenuity for commercial considerations, director Boyle approaches the action with periodically aimless, by-the-book filmmaking (save an awkwardly humorous scene in which Richard imagines himself the hero of a Nintendo game). Also, he blatantly pilfers scenes from "Apocalypse Now" and "The Deer Hunter" -- although Boyle would probably call these scenes homages shaped by Richard's pop-culture mind.

Most of the other characters are little more than scenery. Ledoyen is delicately alluring (and how!) but she serves no purpose other than to be an object of desire. As her boyfriend, Canet exists only as a bland obstacle to romance. But Tilda Swinton ("Conceiving Ada," "Orlando") lends the film a morsel of complexity as Sal, the community's peculiarly indifferent chieftain.

"The Beach" is an exercise in box office conformity. The acting, the photography, the chemistry between DiCaprio and Ledoyen, the something's-amiss atmosphere -- everything about the picture is adequate, but never anything more. Subsequently, one is left to wonder how it might have turned out if the budget-ballooning matinee idol hadn't signed on and Boyle had been left to his own devices instead of having to consider the lowest common denominator and the bottom line.



Facts and Figures

Run time: 119 mins

In Theaters: Friday 11th February 2000

Box Office Worldwide: $144.1M

Budget: $40M

Distributed by: 20th Century Fox

Production compaines: Figment Films

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 2.5 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 19%
Fresh: 22 Rotten: 94

IMDB: 6.6 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director:

Starring: as Richard, as Étienne, as Sal, as Françoise, as Christo, as Keaty, Peter Youngblood Hills as Zeph, as Daffy, Jerry Swindall as Sammy, Lars Arentz-Hansen as Bugs, Jukka Hiltunen as Karl, as Sten, Daniel York as Hustler, as Unhygienix, Zelda Tinska as Sonja

Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

New Movies

Get Back Movie Review

Get Back Movie Review

Roger Appleton's documentary 'Get Back' looks into the music scene that come out of Liverpool....

Imperium Movie Review

Imperium Movie Review

First-time filmmaker Daniel Ragussis takes an unusual approach to this thriller. Since it's based on...

The Girl With All the Gifts Movie Review

The Girl With All the Gifts Movie Review

Like a 10-years-later follow-up to 28 Days Later, this small British thriller takes a refreshingly...

The Magnificent Seven Movie Review

The Magnificent Seven Movie Review

Director Antoine Fuqua brings his usual fascination with violence to this remake of the iconic...

Bridget Jones's Baby Movie Review

Bridget Jones's Baby Movie Review

As it's been 12 years since the last Bridget Jones movie, expectations aren't too high...

The Beatles: Eight Days a Week - The Touring Years Movie Review

The Beatles: Eight Days a Week - The Touring Years Movie Review

A-list director Ron Howard worked with the surviving Beatles to assemble this engaging documentary, which...

Blair Witch Movie Review

Blair Witch Movie Review

It's been 17 years since The Blair Witch Project shook up the cinema and created...

Advertisement
Anthropoid Movie Review

Anthropoid Movie Review

Outside the Czech Republic, few people know about Operation Anthropoid, a spy mission in 1943...

Kubo and the Two Strings Movie Review

Kubo and the Two Strings Movie Review

From Laika (The Boxtrolls), this is one of the most beautiful, sophisticated animated films in...

Captain Fantastic Movie Review

Captain Fantastic Movie Review

An offbeat comedy-drama with a timely kick, this charming family road trip takes on some...

Hell or High Water Movie Review

Hell or High Water Movie Review

Sicario screenwriter Taylor Sheridan delivers another fiercely intelligent, engaging story that maintains high suspense while...

The 9th Life of Louis Drax Movie Review

The 9th Life of Louis Drax Movie Review

With heavy overtones of Hitchcockian mystery and intrigue, this stylish thriller is the enjoyably melodramatic...

Kickboxer: Vengeance Movie Review

Kickboxer: Vengeance Movie Review

The 1989 Muay Thai action movie Kickboxer starred a young Jean-Claude Van Damme, who pops...

Julieta Movie Review

Julieta Movie Review

Iconic Spanish filmmaker Pedro Almodovar is back with another powerfully complex female-centred drama, along the...

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.