By: Henry J. Fromage (Four Beers) –
As a teenager in the Age of Titanic, I have to admit that I developed a bit of a grudge against Leo DiCaprio that took years to get past. As a result, there’s a whole section of DiCaprio flicks that I never bothered to watch.
Not entirely a loss
The Beach fell right in that range, but I’ve been on a recent Danny Boyle kick that ven diagrammed with precocious Leo, so I popped it in and gave it a watch. It’s about a young American tourist who heads to Thailand in search of something different, and finds it when an unhinged drifter leaves him a map to a hidden paradise, with all of the sun, sand, and free cannabis that you can take. He invites along a French couple (Guillame Canet and apple of his eye Virginie Ledoyen), but makes a mistake that will put them and the Tilda Swinton-led Utopian Society they eventually find at The Beach in jeopardy.
This is definitely a Danny Boyle joint. It’s an edgy, fast-talking, edited to the hilt, impeccably soundtracked thriller with a little more thought behind it that it appears at first glance. It also features some of the best cinematography Boyle’s ever had to work with, from master Darius Khondji (Se7en, Midnight in Paris).
Of course, when you this to work with…
Lord of the Flies is the obvious comparison, but isn’t a perfect fit as the society on The Beach has been functioning just fine for six years (!) by the time Leo comes across it. Of course, this will be tested in a variety of ways, most intriguingly when real life encroaches in the form of a shark attack and threatens to kill all those chill vibes, dude.
Turns out stoners can’t handle crises well. Who knew?
The more interesting subtext for me, though, was The Beach’s insight into the psychology of the nomad tourist (which I am myself, to an extent). Leo’s looking for excitement, a bit of danger perhaps, and a hassle-free personal paradise that he doesn’t have to share with all of the sheeple he despises back home. He, however, finds out that everything has consequences, real danger is nothing like in movies or video games, and just maybe these impulses are another manifestation of fear- of responsibility, normalcy, real life.
A last raised glass to DiCaprio himself, who’s a bit of an anti-Jack Dawson. He’s our narrator, but it soon becomes obvious that he’s a bit of a pretentious dick whose unreliability and crazy streak makes you question what you’re seeing in interesting ways.
Of course, Boyle’s commentary on the white man’s folly of assuming the world is theirs to subjugate without consequence rings a little hollow when you read up on how much the production of the film fucked up the environment around Thailand’s Maya Bay, which apparently wasn’t paradise-y enough for him.
I was tempted to assign a beer to a video game interlude that’s aged very poorly, but Leo sells it hilariously with his mechanical movements.
So, the last beer has to go to the ending, which smacks of studio interference after a poignant climax with an intriguing edge. If you don’t mind spoilers, Brad Brevet recently laid out what would have been a far better ending here. Of course, I guess you could subscribe to the theory that Leo went crazy or died, and the ending’s all a hallucination, because computers sure as hell don’t work that way…
An intriguing, if uneven thriller that’s more thought-provoking than you’d expect.
Take a Drink: whenever Leo is being a creepster
Take a Drink: whenever someone says “beach”
Take a Drink: every time someone drinks or partakes in a little sticky icky
Do a Shot: Shark!