Written by / 2/26/2016 / No comments / , , , ,

LEO HANGS AT THE BEACH

After the big famous tragic ship sank into the icy depths, Leo was paid off by wandering Danny Boyle's THE BEACH
It was one of his first ventures after hitting his TITANIC movie star A-list sex symbol stride that Leonardo DiCaprio somewhat veered back into arthouse mode, only completely outdoors and very sunny with some ultra-violence from sharks and/or guerrillas on the bad side of a giant Thailand Island, hidden from the outskirts beyond where an abundance of pot grows, grows and grows, and the commune inhabitants of the peaceful side get their own pot and food and...

From Main Poster
Let's begin where the film does: a nightmare tourist town where Leo meets two French travelers, a boy and girl who seem an item and one in particular, played by gorgeous Virginie Ledoyen as Françoise, catches DiCaprio's Richard totally off-guard, while, at nighttime, he meets, from the next shabby room in the crummy motel resembling a rat-drenched prison with part of the top wall missing, an exploitative cast decision from the sleeper foreign hit THE FULL MONTY, who, in a much more subtle way, is equivalent to Leo's fame in... you know, that sinking ship blockbuster....

Robert Carlyle
And in Robert's particular BEACH role, far from the title locale and purposefully stuck in a dark, horrendous, additive interior, the always-intense Carlyle's Daffy makes up for little time not only providing a few world-weary laughs but the McGuffin of the century: a map left for his new young friend, after a fatal overdose, leading our boy hero and his French sidekicks to a private island where, after one of the most suspenseful scenes occur... the trio sneaking around endless, heavenly pot fields while not realizing it's the wrong side, guarded by armed commandos: After about ten minutes of strategic action the trio dive off a cliff (BUTCH & SUNDANCE style) and, soon after, meet a band of characters in which only a few stand out from the dozens hanging around, especially Alpha Female Tilda Swinton as island leader, Sal, who looks very much like her former friend, Daffy (Carlyle)...

Leo DiCaprio
For as Daffy gave DiCaprio wide-eyed information of The Beach, the location itself is explained by Sal, who has a strong, silent, blue collar boyfriend (resembling a young Marlon Brando, and waking things up when needed) who loathes DiCaprio's Richard from the start. After all, his significant other is somewhat of a Dragon Lady, and everyone knows Richard's gonna get some (including Leo's new French girlfriend, breaking off with her silent partner, who weren't that serious to begin with) when the duo, alone, venture back into town to pick up some Earthly gear and a handful of items following a grocery list montage. Here we realize how special The Beach was, back within the bedlam of... life.

THE BEACH is far from perfect but has a cool breezy rhythm and the gorgeous location is a character in itself; almost too good to be true. The suspense relies on who's gonna eventually mess up everything. It turns out being someone really important, screwing the pooch before he realized there was one, leading to a gun-point nightmare (a DEER HUNTER sequence following an APOCALYPSE NOW one), experienced after a horrendous shark attack that, as ultimately unimportant to the island locals as the dead guy on the streets of MIDNIGHT COWBOY, makes Leo realize this place is downright cold-blooded and narcissistic.

Another Leo Pic
Thus the third act takes creative director Danny Boyle's visual dynamic completely, and most likely, intentionally overboard as Richard... sent off alone on the further outskirts, away from the others as a form of Devil's Island style punishment... slowly becomes an insane and paranoid survivalist viewed upon (to himself) a visual twin from the handheld video game he's carried around and played sporadically throughout. Meanwhile, the serpentine voice of Carlyle returns as an insane Obi-Wan. So by the time all the good, bad and ugly elements meet, we're already quite lost from that first moment of heavenly aesthetic pleasure of having found the dream Island in the first place. But hey, nothing is ever perfect, especially in paradise.

Pure Camp and then some
Sure, THE BEACH is predictable with a lack of character-development, even with the few important people, busy in a way too crowded straw hut, and, in Film Noir fashion, our tortured hero experiences more than his initially bored, smitten and curious young self deserved. Although Leo's performance, intentionally not as grandiose/epic as his TITANIC dialogue, or as solidly edgy as his youthful turns in THE BASKETBALL DIARIES or THE QUICK AND THE DEAD (the latter highly recommended), doesn't aim for greatness but just pretty good, which is just fine....

French Ingenue
Herein, Leo really got his Sophomore payday for this decently average vehicle, followed by a long-running, and probably forever-ongoing cinematic marriage with director Martin Scorsese, their ventures, beginning with the dark and clumsy GANGS OF NEW YORK and resulting in the embarrassingly overboard WOLF OF WALL STREET, with a real mess in-between, is more miss than hit yet always cleaning up at the box office, further making this previously underrated BEACH a forgotten ray of entertaining, sick day, cable afternoon sunshine.

RATING: ***1/2
TRIVIA/SPOILERS: In a few years, a groundbreaking cable series called LOST never gave proper props to THE BEACH, which visually is quite similar and had somewhat of the same edgy vibe, at times • And THE BEACH, released 1998, after the primal adventure is almost done, the movie actually ends with Leo, wearing a college backpack, looking at the inhabitants posing in an Internet computer room, grinning at an attached email jpeg: Hard to describe, but despite the 1980's style handheld game, THE BEACH made you forget all about that semi-new contraption called The Internet: thus the epilogue should have been scraped altogether.
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