Films of the 00s: The Beach
Given his day job, which he conveniently started right at the top of the decade, Tim sees many more movies than even I do. Thus, finding movies that neither of us has already seen has proved a challenge, especially with the added hurdle of looking for offbeat titles that are easily available on both sides of the Big Pond. But speaking of pond-hopping, Tim was eager for a second trip back to The Beach, a post-Titanic, post-"P***y Posse" vanity/comeback vehicle for Leonardo DiCaprio, and probably Danny Boyle's most aggressive bid for a studio-funded mainstream Hollywood hit. Despite the marquee presence of Tilda Swinton, I had somehow never seen it. Here are some excerpts of our review:
ND: "Maybe since Boyle had so recently been so adept at making the drug-trips in Trainspotting so truly frightening and off-putting but simultaneously kicky and engaging, I was hoping he'd find a way to hyperrealize the sensual pull, the literal dangers, and the ethical quandaries of this scenario a little more. At the very least, don't you think it's a mistake of the script to partition the survey of life among the commune so fully away from the dangerous, glancing engagements with the gun-toting, pot-planting Thai mercenaries? For Richard and the Frenchies to commit so fully to beachy 'happiness' while knowing it involves regular, entrenched exposure to violence and brute corruption would be more interesting than compartmentalizing those looming threats only toward the beginning and end of the movie. Though the risk of racist iconography would have shot pretty high, this approach to structure might have furnished an effective decoy by which the corruption inside the compound would have emerged more surreptitiously, and as a more interesting test of the audience..."
TR: "By the time Richard is running around in the jungle like Martin Sheen meets Rambo, Boyle has inelegantly retreated into his default final-act mode of Trippy Psycho Overkillcf. Eccleston in Shallow Grave, Renton vs. Begbie in Trainspotting, Murphy's bloody woodland spree in 28 Days Later, the Sun-God killer/whatever in Sunshine. It's not enough. I like the hints of Richard's moral alienation right at the start, particularly the way he closes the door behind him while regarding Daffy's corpse (though that's another good scene half-ruined by "this-was-some-crazy-shit!" voiceover). But this idea isn't followed through properly in the paradise sequences, and Leo, who is very uneven, can't do much to make Richard's bandanna psychosis actually work as a dramatic device. Still, I do appreciate the way his lie about copying the map comes back to haunt him—the way reducing it to a half-lie ("I only showed it to them!") actually makes the situation worse, the way Tilda turns on him, the dumb obliviousness of the new visitors, which sends a chill...."
Lots more where that came from. And how about you: do you remember the film? Did you read the book? Do you have Leo's back a bit more than we do? If this were 1998, I'd be a dead man by now. Can you settle this whole did-they-or-didn't-they dispute? Chime in with a comment.
Earlier in this series: Wonder Boys, American Psycho, La Captive, and Dôlè