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

Their Finest Movie Review

Their Finest Movie Review

Skilfully written, directed and acted, this offbeat British period film tells a story that catches...

Unforgettable Movie Review

Unforgettable Movie Review

With heavy echoes of trashy thrillers like Fatal Attraction, this movie overcomes its painfully simplistic...

The Belko Experiment Movie Review

The Belko Experiment Movie Review

The kill-or-die scenario that this movie hinges on isn't something new; it's been used in...

The Fate of the Furious Movie Review

The Fate of the Furious Movie Review

With the more dumbed-down title Fast & Furious 8 outside of North America, this overcrowded...

A Quiet Passion Movie Review

A Quiet Passion Movie Review

British writer-director Terence Davies (The Deep Blue Sea) is an expert at digging beneath the...

The Sense of an Ending Movie Review

The Sense of an Ending Movie Review

Julian Barnes' Booker Prize-winning novel is adapted into a remarkably intelligent, gently involving film anchored...

The Boss Baby Movie Review

The Boss Baby Movie Review

There isn't a lot of subtlety in this madcap animated comedy, which is more aimed...

Advertisement
City of Tiny Lights Movie Review

City of Tiny Lights Movie Review

After the latest incarnation of Dredd, director Pete Travis shifts gears drastically for this complex...

Going in Style Movie Review

Going in Style Movie Review

This is only technically a remake of the iconic 1979 film starring movie icons George...

Graduation Movie Review

Graduation Movie Review

Romanian filmmaker Cristian Mungiu (4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days) recounts another staggeringly detailed...

Ghost in the Shell Movie Review

Ghost in the Shell Movie Review

This sci-fi thriller is so visually stunning that it deserves to be mentioned in the...

Free Fire Movie Review

Free Fire Movie Review

Basically a 90-minute shoot-out, there isn't a lot to this movie. British filmmaker Ben Wheatley...

Life Movie Review

Life Movie Review

Like a mash-up of Alien and Gravity, this ripping sci-fi horror movie is very effective...

The Lost City of Z Movie Review

The Lost City of Z Movie Review

Based on a true story, it's the historical aspect of these events that holds 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.