There was a time, say four or five years ago, when Leonardo DiCaprio was the can't miss actor
in the limelight. Then people saw "The Beach" and his star fell before rising again. He was coming off of the
blockbuster behemoth "Titanic," so there was no real way he could have fulfilled the expectations stemming from that success.
"The Beach" nearly killed his career, but it shouldn't have. Sure, it was disappointing and underwhelming, but it was
nowhere near the dreck countless reviews purported it to be.
Director Danny Boyle ("Trainspotting," "Shallow Grave," "A Life Less Ordinary") was once the
up and coming British director, based largely on the success of the provacative "Trainspotting." But he hasn't
gotten the limelight back until "28 Days Later" was released to rave reviews and modest box office earnings. "The Beach"
nearly sunk him, but he managed to stay afloat.
The problem lies in the plot. There is no possible way to make this movie. At least
make it good. It's just falls apart two-thirds of the way into the action. It not that it was terribly exciting
or captivating, because it just wasn't, but one could expect better plot devices than some of the ones used.
Leonardo Dicaprio plays Richard, an American looking for a more exciting life in Thailand.
He runs into a crazy Britich fellow calling himself Daffy (Robert Carlyle). They exchange a joint and a handshake, then
Daffy is off to cause mischief. Carlyle fails to give Daffy any dimension other than the cuckoo for coco-puffs antics
and twinkle in his crazy, crazy eyes. He leaves a map to a perfect island on Richard's door, then slits his
wrists in a bloody display of craziness. It's just not that dynamic of a character, and I think Boyle wanted him to
be. But he was just crazy and not all that interesting. He was crazy, we can get that without having it pounded
into our heads with a mallet.
So, always up for adventure and apparently not concerned that the person who gave him the map was
crazy, Richard decides to head over to the island. He asks a french girl that he is infatuated with, Francoise (Ledoyen),
to come along with her boyfriend in tow.
When they reach the island, they find that a small community of mostly British twenty-somethings
inhabits it. They had formed a sort of society cut off from the rest of the corrupted world. They smoke
pot (a lot of pot and pretty much all the time) and play volleyball. It's the Utopia you forgot to dream about.
Richard makes a move for French chick, dabbles in quasi-profound narration, and makes mistakes
that threaten to bring the community down with him. Are you excited about it yet? I was. Was
is the operative word here. There's not much to get excited about when you get right down to it.
It's an intriguing idea, the perfect island paradise and a group of people who'll do anything
to protect it, but there's nothing suspenseful about it. I didn't care what happened to Richard, and I should
have. There's no rule that a main character has to be likable, but he or she should at least be interesting.
Richard was neither. It wasn't DiCaprio's fault, he played the part very well, with conviction and skill. It was
the character's fault.
Another of the film's sins is the failure of good character actors to make me care about
their characters. Robert Carlyle, the ball of fire from "Trainspotting," was just a crazy ball of fire. I would
be impressed if I hadn't seen him do the same thing only better in "Trainspotting." A one note actor frustrates the
snot out of me. Literally, the mucus that dwells within my nostrils. Tilda Swinton, the ace character actor from
films like "Vanilla Sky," "Adaptation," and "The Deep End," plays the community's leader, Sal. It might have been
a interesting character if I was kept from being able to predict everything she would do for the last third of the film.
But, the film is not without merit. DiCaprio's skill is evident in his performance.
The cinematography is beautiful. It just sparkles of what could have been.