The Beach

This slick thriller, which was plagued by production problems and a delayed release, never decides whether it wants to be an exotic, titillating episode of MTV's The Real World or a Gen-X Lord of the Flies. A disaffected member of the virtual generation, Richard (Leonardo DiCaprio) flees to Thailand in search of authentic experience, only to find himself...read more

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Reviewed by Maitland McDonagh
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This slick thriller, which was plagued by production problems and a delayed release, never decides whether it wants to be an exotic, titillating episode of MTV's The Real World or a Gen-X Lord of the Flies. A disaffected member of the

virtual generation, Richard (Leonardo DiCaprio) flees to Thailand in search of authentic experience, only to find himself stuck in a thoroughly commercialized, mall-style Asia, one packaged for youthful tourists — sorry, travelers — like himself. But the promise of something

different is held out by a dope-addled waste case (Robert Carlyle) who calls himself Daffy Duck and commits bloody suicide after a single enigmatic conversation with Richard. Daffy leaves behind a hand-drawn map to an unspoiled corner of heaven on earth. Richard and an attractive French couple,

Etienne and Francoise (Guillaume Canet, Virginie Ledoyen), make their way to the fabled beach and discover an idyllic commune led by the imperious Sal (Tilda Swinton). But Richard's affair with Francoise disrupts the hippie haven, and soon paradise is as rotten as an overripe mango. Alex Garland's

bestselling novel is a brisk page-turner whose deceptively glossy surface is supported by carefully crafted thematic underpinnings and crammed with sharp characterizations. Danny Boyle's movie movie jettisons much of the telling detail; it has the shambling rhythm of a shaggy dog story and so

simplifies the characters' ethical dilemmas that it's hard to care what they do. And stripped of the book's careful grounding in Richard's petulant obsession with Vietnam War movies, the picture's obvious allusions to APOCALYPSE NOW and THE DEER HUNTER seem capricious and show-offy. A canny move

for DiCaprio, whose morally compromised Richard is light years removed from TITANIC's Jack, the movie is a disappointment overall. It could have been a seductive fable with a concealed sting; instead, it's just a lazy moral tale.

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  • Released: 2000
  • Rating: R
  • Review: This slick thriller, which was plagued by production problems and a delayed release, never decides whether it wants to be an exotic, titillating episode of MTV's The Real World or a Gen-X Lord of the Flies. A disaffected member of the virtual generation,… (more)

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