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Thai-tanic: Leo Hits The Beach

By Jennifer Liao, Crimson Staff Writer

FILM

THE BEACH

directed by

Danny Boyle

starring

Leonardo DiCaprio

Virginie Ledoyen

Guillaume Canet

Fox 2000

Fans who were disappointed to see Leonardo DiCaprio's dismal end in Titanic shouldn't have worried. Three relatively low-key years after the blockbuster in which he succumbed to an icy demise, Leo washed up on an idyllic stretch of sand as one of the world's highest-paid, most well known actors.In his latest rendezvous in the water, entitled The Beach, based on a book of the same name by author Alex Garland, Leo reinvents himself as Richard, a dissatisfied, disillusioned Gen-Xer, traversing the world in search of a "genuine" experience. Genuine in this case excludes anything remotely associated with the digital age; Richard seeks a reprieve from the desensitized, apathetic, commercialized world, and decides that a romp through Southeast Asia will do just the trick.

THE BEACH

directed by

Danny Boyle

starring

Leonardo DiCaprio

Virginie Ledoyen

Guillaume Canet

Fox 2000

It is in Bangkok that Richard first hears about a legendary beach from a shady character known only as Daffy Duck (Robert Carlyle). The beach is a paradise that is both hidden and renowned, a tranquil space unfettered and uncontaminated by the trappings of the present. No one knows whether the famed piece of real estate truly exists, but a strung-out Daffy claims to have lived there and been ruined by the experience. Daffy leaves Richard a map to the island as his last act before committing suicide. Strangely detached from Daffy's violent death, but intrigued by the mystery of the beach, Richard invites French traveler Etienne (Guillaume Canet) and his girlfriend, Francoise (Virginie Ledoyen) on a journey to discover the truth of the famed locale.

So begins a wild expedition that involves shark attacks (both real and fake), betrayal (guess who winds up getting the girl), murder and sex (not necessarily in that order). On the island, the trio discovers a community of travelers who coexist peacefully with a number of gun-toting drug farmers; paradise bordered by the leafy green of illegal substances. The pristine, natural setting of the beach is a direct contrast to the evil culture of intolerance that develops within the commune of travelers, a community on the fringes of society that enforces their own set of laws.

As commune life degenerates into a nightmare reminiscent of William Golding's Lord of the Flies, Richard himself loses his tenuous grip on reality, plunging into a surreal world that embodies what he so desperately sought to escape in the first place. While the cinematic details of the film are breathtaking,and the scenery positively beautiful, serious discontinuities and leaps of logic in the script leave the audience with more questions than answers by the time the final credits roll. Richard's eroding grip on reality is questionable; it is unclear what exactly causes him to go over the edge. (Was it the island paradise or his beautiful girlfriend that did him in?) Perhaps one reason for the roughness of the script is because the film can't seem to make up its mind about what it wants to be: a Leo love-fest or a social comment on the times. The film's indecision results in pointless and disjunctive scenes that lack cohesion and fluidity.

The plodding screenplay often moves at a maddeningly slow pace, one that even Leo's formidable aesthetic talents can't make bearable. Richard is also not a likable protagonist. His self-centered, immature behavior makes it difficult to sympathize with him, no matter what disaster strikes. Yet the character of Richard is the antithesis of that of Jack Dawson, DiCaprio's role in Titanic, which is testimony to DiCaprio's versatility as an actor, debunking his reputation as just another pretty face. Rumors have circulated that DiCaprio impregnated his leading lady during filming. Despite these rumors, the chemistry between Francoise and Richard is perhaps the only well-developed aspect of the film.

The Beach relies heavily on its biggest marketing asset: DiCaprio. Twenty million of the $50 million budget was devoted to Leo's salary, and Director Danny Boyle gets his money's worth. Leo prances around the island baring his newly buffed chest and abs in true Abercrombie fashion, which will no doubt delight teenyboppers everywhere. After stewing for three years in anticipation, audiences are no doubt primed and ready to see the King of the World in his latest royal performance. While it is true that those who go simply to see Leo will depart satisfied, The Beach will leave the rest of us wishing we could add to the film what it so desperately needs: a large, unsinkable ship. Grade: C+

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