The Beach (2000)
The Looney Lagoon
No offence an' all, but, you're fucked in the head, right? - Richard
I am sure some people must get what "The Beach" is all about but by the time the movie ended it seemed like nothing much had happened. Oh we watched Leonardo DiCaprio as Richard finding Nirvana whilst holidaying in Bangkok and then realising Nirvana is not as nice as he thought but it's not really that interesting and when the credits roll I was just left wondering what the point was to the movie. In fact at times "The Beach" feels more like a tourist promotion video for Thailand delivering lavish views of unspoiled nature whilst also showing the clubbing delights of the cities. As such whilst all the scenery, the crystal clear waters and green rock faces were delicious the rest of the movie just failed to really capture me
Having travelled to Thailand for a holiday, American Richard (Leonardo DiCaprio - Titanic) becomes disappointed that it's not what he thought it would be. But then he meets Daffy (Robert Carlyle - The Full Monty), a crazy Scotsman who leaves Richard a map to an unspoilt Lagoon before killing himself. Inviting two French friends to join him on his journey to find this Lagoon the three of them go through a series of mini dramas before reaching what is Nirvana and a community of people who have shunned civilization. But whilst to start with living the simple life is wonderful things go wrong and soon Richard's Nirvana turns nasty as he becomes mentally unbalanced.
"The Beach" is very much a movie of two halves with us following Richard to Bangkok where he discovers it's not all that he thought it would be and at the same time coming in to possession of a map to a heavenly lagoon thanks to his manic friend Daffy who then proceeds to kill himself, as you do. This first half is shall we say a little dull as Richard along with some French friends Francois and Ettiene make the journey which includes swimming across the sea and hiding from drug farmers to this untouched Lagoon where they meet a commune of people who have shunned civilization to live a simple life. There is very little which is exciting about all of this and the fact that Richard falls for Francois and has to win her from her boyfriend Ettiene doesn't make it anymore entertaining. It just feels incredibly weak and I feel that maybe in adapting Alex Garland's novel the writers have had to leave out parts which would have made it far more interesting to make the movie a more reasonable length.
The daft thing is that whilst the first half is dull the second half is crazy as we watch Richard ending up going dellusional and ferral as he is ordered to protect Nirvana from tourists, thanks to mistakenly leaving a copy of the map for others to find. There is no other word for it than plain crazy because we watch Richard believing he is part of some video game as he runs around the tropical jungle as he becomes more and more reclusive, living in the dark and shunning the rest of the civilization. It just doesn't make sense and nor does the ending which basically restores an equilibrium in Richard's life but effectively means that nothing really important happens in "The Beach". All of which, the dull first half, the crazy second half and the once more dull ending makes "The Beach" a disappointing movie.
But the strange thing is that the wonderful cinematography be it capturing the hectic life in the city or the stunning beauty of the lagoon hides what for me are problems with the storyline. You can't but help be carried away by this Nirvana, the crystal clear water, the plankton which shimmers in the moonlight and the wonderful greenery littered rock faces and waterfalls. It is simply beautiful and makes you wish that you could also find some where so unspoilt and so perfect. It probably wasn't the idea but "The Beach" ends up a reasonably good tourist piece for Thailand as it shows the partying of the city life for young people and the beauty of the country for those less in to hedonistic activities.
As for the acting well to be frank Tilda Swinton, Guillaume Canet and Virginie Ledoyen deliver weak performances but then I don't feel the script did them many favours. But then there is Leonardo DiCaprio as Richard, central to everything which happens in the movie, and he manages to do quite a decent job. Again I don't think the script did him many favours but he manages to make Richard more than just a 2 dimensional character. We may not understand why he goes loopy but we do like him and at least his need for something different to the norm makes him interesting.
What this all boils down to is that "The Beach" is a beautiful movie but it's beautiful for the scenery rather than anything else. The actual story seems pointless and switches from being dull to plain crazy with no real depth of explanation. The performances aren't great either although Leonardo DiCaprio does well to make Richard at least interesting and ultimately it all left me a bit bemused as to why I spent 2 hours watching a movie which seems to go nowhere.
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