The Beach Movie Review

Danny Boyle says he was "keen to distance this movie from Lord of the Flies, which The Beach has been unfairly compared to." Okay, so The Beach is not Lord of the Flies. Lord of the Flies has a lot more going for it.

Many a confused moviegoer has already asked me what the heck this film is about, since the trailer makes it out to be something akin to, er, Lord of the Flies. The movie, based on the novel by Alex Garland, traces the Thailand trip of young Richard (DiCaprio), who in Bangkok encounters a crazy guy named Daffy (Carlyle, who has nary an understandable line of dialogue in the whole movie).

Daffy ends up offing himself, but not before teasing Richard with a map to a remote Thai island, where the perfect beach can be found. So, with two French acquaintances (Francoise and Etienne - Ledoyen and Canet, respectively) from his Bangkok hotel, they manage to trek to the remote paradise.

Turns out the beach really is there. A band of expatriates from around the world (led by Swinton) live there, in fact, and they have an uneasy peace with the local pot farmers across the island, who carry some big guns and a lot of chest-beating anger and paranoia. The arrival of the trio turns out to be good and bad -- but mostly bad.

Writer-director-producer team Hodge-Boyle-Macdonald have put together two of the best films of the last decade (Shallow Grave and Trainspotting), and the limbo bar for The Beach is set incredibly high. Unfortunately, it doesn't live up to their legacy, for a number of reasons.

Titanic fans expecting their dashing Leo are going to be sorely disappointed. In The Beach, DiCaprio practically plays a parody of himself, haughty and aloof, but underneath a coward and a habitual liar. The rest of the cast can safely be shrugged off, with much-vaunted newcomer Virginie Ledoyen leaving virtually no memorable impression.

More than ever before, Boyle relies on camera trickery to tell the story. The problem is that, unlike in Trainspotting, where camera tricks were used to get in the head of a heroin fiend, The Beach uses them to mask defects in the script, which rambles on for 90 minutes without much direction, before diverging into The Deer Hunter territory, with Leo going inexplicably primal. Even Boyle's kitschy life-as-video-game trick has been done before, in Spike Lee's Clockers.

By film's end, the troubled shrugs of our audience would seem to agree with me that no one really knows what to make of The Beach. It will likely appeal to moviegoers more interested in scenery than substance -- just don't expect Beach Blanket Bingo. This is Apocalypse Now: The Prequel.

Like a Virginie.


The Beach Rating

" OK "

Rating: R, 2000


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