After the success of the mighty box office breaker Titanic, Leonardo DiCaprio pretty much had his pick of movie roles. In essence he was…king of the world (did you see that coming? If not, you are a grade-A dinkleberry). For his follow up, DiCaprio teamed with director Danny Boyle (who acquired acclaimed success with Trainspotting) for The Beach, an intense thriller, something like Clueless meets Lord Of The Flies. Not the box office hit some thought it might be, The Beach sank like a stone in theaters. DiCaprio's sophomore effort after Titanic is out on DVD. Is it worth the watch or all washed up?
Facts of the Case
Young Richard is in Bangkok for a vacation like no other. While staying in a crummy hotel he meets Daffy (Robert Carlyle, also of Trainspotting), who seems to be just what his name is: wacky. It's in this hotel that Richard is given a map to paradise—a secret beach resort hidden among the waters of the Gulf of Thailand (or, as I like to call it, JURASSIC PAR- oops, wrong movie). With two new French traveling companions, Francoise and Etienne (Guillaume Canet and Virginie Ledoyen), Richard takes off in search of this hidden paradise, unaware of what discoveries lie ahead…
The three teen travelers arrive at the island, but see no beach…instead they find Cheech & Chong's backyard, a field filled with so much pot you get high just looking at it. However, there are Thai soldiers guarding this plantation. In other words, you smoke, you GET smoked. After fleeing from the field, they cross a river and come across…THE BEACH! This place makes Hef's parties look like the school dance scene in Sixteen Candles. There are hot women, a big beach party, and plenty of dope to make even a hardcore toker smile. This is the paradise they've been looking for!
But paradise doesn't come without a price. No party can last forever, and with a few turns of fate things start to look grim for the beach clan. What will happen when sex, deception and guns get in the way? If you're interested, I think you need to take a trip to "The Beach…
I was somewhat hesitant to watch The Beach. It started out slow, but picked up about halfway through. Then it went back down hill again. I have mixed feelings about it. I'll talk about the good, then talk about the bad. Then maybe I'll just talk about my thoughts on how to build the perfect tool shed if you're still reading this review.
The photography in this film is absolutely stunning. Cinematographer Darius Khondji (Se7en, Alien Resurrection) does a beautiful job of capturing how this island really is a paradise. The island itself is breathtaking, though I'm skeptical that it was a REAL island in some shots. I have a feeling it might have been a computer effect. Either way, the oceans are deep magenta green, the beaches sandy white, and the sky a majestic blue. If everything else were terrible in the film, the photography would still be reason enough to see it.
DiCaprio does a good enough job as Richard, the American tourist out for a vacation like no other. I'm relatively indifferent to DiCaprio's acting. He does a fine job in a role that probably could have been handled by most Hollywood players his generation. To me the role didn't have much depth in it, and as most characters in the film, there wasn't a lot of complexity behind Richard's motivations.
The rest of the cast is fine, if not bland. Tilda Swinton (Orlando) plays Sal, the leader of the beach clan. She brings some respect to the role, but like so many others it's poorly written without much depth. Newcomer Virginie Ledoyen, who was touted as a new "big thing" right before The Beach was released, is really nothing more than a French sex pot, emoting and pouting at most turns. Everyone else appears to be high on pot.
The Beach is presented in anamorphic widescreen 2.35:1. Fox has done a great transfer as the picture is free of any grain or scratches. No digital artifacting or color bleeding was detected. Ocean tones of blue, white and green were deep and crisp, with blacks being solid and full. A very nice job by Fox.
Audio is excellent with a Dolby Digital 5.1 mix. Music and effects almost never drown out dialogue (I spotted only one minor instance). Also included on this disc are English and French tracks, plus subtitles of English and Spanish. I don't quite understand why the Spanish community may read the dialogue yet not listen, and the French may listen yet not read it. Hmmm…I'm baffled by this decision, yet too busy to write letters to Fox. Then again, I am neither French nor Spanish, so what do I care?
The Beach has been given the "special edition" treatment by Fox which includes plenty of bonus materials for DiCaprio lovers. To start with there is an audio commentary by director Danny Boyle with is chock full of information about the making of the beach. Boyle talks about digital effects (one of the rocks that makes up the barrier around the beach is CGI), the music used in scenes by Moby, and other such production info. One of the most fascinating things Boyle talked about was the fact that a love scene done on the beach at night was not actually filmed at night. Instead they filmed it during very bright daylight then changed the light later on into a more night "look." It was then strange to re-watch the scene and realize it's actually taking place in the day.
Next up is a five minute featurette that is, in all essence, a promo reel for the picture. It gives no real insight into the making of the film, but is there only to give us some generic interviews with the cast and the director. Oh, and a bunch of clips from the movie that we already have on the disc! A general waste of time.
Nine deleted scenes are included, with such titles as "Did you tell anyone?" and "Breakfast." Some are more interesting to watch than others, but the best of them is the alternate ending, which isn't really alternate, per say, more an expounding on a character's end. The rest (including an "alternate opening") are fine for one watch, but unless you're a freaky fan of The Beach, they aren't the end all to be all.
The more "eh" extras are some storyboards of different scenes (and be advised these are just drawings, not comparisons played along with the film), an All Saints music video for the song "Pure Shores," a buttload of theatrical trailers and TV spots (and I mean a lot…over 14 of 'em), a promo spot for the soundtrack, and a cast and crew bio page which is actually pretty extensive.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
I did have many problems with The Beach. The first and foremost is the theme of this film. If I may slowly climb on my soapbox for a moment, The Beach is the type of teenage drivel that Hollywood has been releasing for the past few years now that advocate sex, drugs and irresponsibility as a (great) way of life. Now, I'm no saint, but I really think that films like this show a complete lack of responsibility on Hollywood's part. Now, before you start sending me letters, I'm not saying that The Beach is responsible for teenage pregnancy, violence, or anything of that nature. I'm just noting that films like this often give off the wrong message to youths in search of some answers (smoke pot, it will all go away)! And yes, I realize the ending gives a small message stating that the lifestyle portrayed in The Beach can be harmful. However, I still think for young kids, this type of movie can often send the wrong message.
Alright, I realize that I could continue with that discussion, but that's another topic for another day. I also love violence-laced T&A films such as Starship Troopers and Total Recall , so at least I won't try and convince you I'm not a hypocrite.
As for the story, it's very confused. I couldn't tell exactly what this film wanted to be. Did it want to be a love story? Or maybe some jungle action movie? It was never really clear exactly what The Beach wanted to be, so it became a split personality (and ones that didn't exactly mesh). The character of Richard was not someone that I cared about; instead he was self-indulgent and very two faced. Consider a scene where he lies to his girlfriend about sleeping with another villager. He tells her that he hasn't even when he has. In the narration we hear Richard explain his actions by saying "I didn't want to ruin the moment." In the sleazy bachelor dictionary, that's cheesiest line there is. I just didn't have much sympathy or relation with Richard's character or actions.
For the retail of around $24.99 I'm not sure as I can really give The Beach a high mark for a purchase. This may be worth the price of renting if only for the great scenery, but overall I wasn't thrilled with the way the storyline unfolded or the way the film was put together. I know there are millions of teenage DiCaprio fans out there wanting my head on a platter, but hey, I enjoyed What's Eating Gilbert Grape?, so there, happy?
Finally, I'd just like to say that to build the perfect tool shed you'll need 8x10 planks, heavy sandpaper, an electric drill, some wood glue, and a set of strong workman's gloves. Cut each plank into halves being sure to sand down as you go. Take the wood glue…doh, out of time!
Eh…we're gonna just barely let The Beach go, but if I see him around town there's gonna be a rumble…
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