Beach, The (2000): Danny Boyle’s Morality Fable Starring DiCaprio

Part exotic tale of a commune, part Gen-X Lord of the Flies, part star vehicle for  Leonardo DiCaprio, Danny Boyle’s “The Beach” is a disappointing film on any number of levels

The movie represents a strange choice for rising international director Danny Boyle as well as for lead DiCaprio, as his first major project after the bonanza success of Titanic, in which he played the heroic Jack.

In John Hodge’s strange adaptation of Alex Garland’s acclaimed novel, Di Caprio stars as Richard, a disaffected American youth traveling through Asia with a handful of friends from Europe, including a French couple, Etienne and Francoise (Guillaume Canet and Virginie Ledoyen).

While in Bangkok, he meets a mad, drug-addict  Scotsman who calls himself Daffy Duck (Robert Carlyle). Shortly before killing himself, after one brief conversation, Duck hands Richard a hand-drawn map to a place in Thailand that’s supposed to be paradise on earth, gorgeous, unspoiled, and uninhabited.

Curious, Richard and his companions try to locate the spot, which, after a dangerous journey, takes them to the promised beach. While settling in, they discover that they are not alone; a large group of fellow travelers has established a community, headed by Sal (Tilda Swinton).  Additionally, there are natives who grow marijuana who don’t like the presence of  visitors.

The irony of a seemingly idyllic commune that’s actually a commercialized Asian spot is never fully explored in the film, which also neglects to deal with Richard’s obsession with Vietnam war movies like “The Deer Hunter” and “Apocalypse Now.”

It doesn’t help that there is no chemistry between Di Caprio and Ledoyen, who engage in an affair, or between Di Caprio and Tilda Swinton.

The Beach became controversial during production, partly due to delays and shifting release dates, partly due to environmental concerns.

End result is a morality fable that’s diffuse and confused.

MPAA: R

Running time: 120 Minutes.

Directed by Danny Boyle.

Written by John Hodge.

Released: February 11, 2000

DVD: January 9, 2001

20th Century Fox