The Basketball Diaries is a gritty film chronicling the adolescent years of poet/writer/musician Jim Carroll (played by Leonardo DiCaprio). Carroll was a star Catholic high school basketball player, presumably headed for the NBA. Unfortunately, his plans didn't quite work out when young Jim fell into the cruel world of life on the street and heavy drug abuse. He kept a vivid journal of his life and times, hence the title.

This is not your typical coming-of-age story. From the beginning, the antics of Carroll and his exceptionally rude punk friends don't help raise a lot of sympathy for their cause. When the boys (including a surprising performance by "Marky" Mark Wahlberg) get into trouble, mugging elderly women and robbing New York shops, in order to raise money for their drug habits, the temptation is to dismiss them as common hoodlums. But the powerfully realistic performance by DiCaprio, full of all the pain and suffering that comes along with heroin addiction and withdrawal, makes this film almost required viewing for any young person not exposed to the drug culture.

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