Following the success of Titanic, Leonardo DiCaprio had his
pick of roles. Instead of opting for something obviously commercial,
he has chosen a more risky and dramatically daring venture by starring
in the latest film from the Scottish trio behind the cult classic
Trainspotting. Along with collaborators Andrew MacDonald and John
Hodge, Scottish director Danny Boyle stamped himself as a film maker
with a singular and unique vision. However, their subsequent effort,
A Life Less Ordinary, was something of a disappointing mish mash that
met with a lukewarm response from audiences. Their latest effort is
also something of an uneven and at times disappointing film that may
struggle to win over audiences.
DiCaprio plays Richard (no surname supplied), a young American
who heads off for the dangerous delights of Thailand, wishing to
experience sensations and sample sights a little off the beaten track.
He learns about a secret island and its fabulous beach from the
paranoid and clearly unhinged Daffy (Robert Carlyle) and decides to
check it out. Accompanied by fellow tourists Francoise (Virginie
Ledoyen) and Etienne (Guillame Canet), Richard heads off to discover
this rumoured paradise situated away from the gaudy, flashy, tacky
regular tourist traps.
They discover an Eden populated by drop-outs who have
established their own community on this remote island, free of need,
greed and arcane rules and regulations. They are largely self
sufficient, apart from occasional visits to the mainland for supplies.
Although they have no real structure to their utopian society, the
unofficial leader is Sal (Tilda Swinton, from Orlando, etc), one of
the founding members, who rules with a sense of benevolence. This
eccentric close knit group share the island with some drug smugglers,
although the two vastly different communities exist together in an
uneasy and fragile truce. But these outsiders and their malignant
presence unwittingly lay the seeds for the inevitable destruction of
this idyllic paradise.
Adapted from Alex Garland's acclaimed novel, The Beach is a
sort of contemporary parable about paradise lost, mixed with generous
overtones of Lord Of the Flies and Blue Lagoon. It takes a different
tack regarding the dangers of innocent tourists travelling through
exotic regions of Asia that sets it apart from the more familiar
territory explored in films like the recent Brokedown Palace, etc.
Boyle certainly has a distinctive and exciting visual style,
but it sometimes clashes with the dramatic action of the film and
pushes it into a more surreal direction. The film seems to lose
direction about half way through, especially when DiCaprio runs around
the island like a younger version of Rambo.
DiCaprio plays a thoroughly selfish and unlikeable character.
But he spends much of the film without a shirt, which will certainly
appeal to female audiences and fans of the actor. But while his
performance sometimes lacks coherence, there is still plenty here to
suggest that he is capable of delivering impressive performances like
those of This Boy's Life, What's Eating Gilbert Grape? when given
interesting material to work with.
The Beach has been shot in Thailand, and Darius Khondji's
cinematography is certainly gorgeous. The stunning locations are
complemented by Angelo Badalamenti's evocative music score.
Ultimately though, The Beach is something of a disappointment,
especially given the talent involved.
Copyright © 2000 Greg King