Movie Reviews by Edwin Jahiel

The Beach (2000) *

Directed by Danny Boyle. Written by Joh Hodge, based on the book by Alex Garland. Photography, Darius Khondji. Editing, Masahiro Hirakubo. Production design, Andrew McAlpine. Music, Angelo Badalamenti. Produced by Andrew MacDonald. Cast: Leonardo DiCapr io (Richard), Virginie Ledoyen (Francoise), Guillaume Canet (Etienne), Robert Carlyle (Daffy), Tilda Swinton (Sal), Paterson Joseph (Keaty).A 20th Century Fox release. 120 minutes. R (drugs, sex)

The long e (ea) as in Beach, is pronounced by many native speakers of other languages (even by persons who speak fine English) in such a short manner that The Beach becomes the Bitch.

Leonardo DiCaprio could be DiCapriocorn. But he's the darling of teens, which fact is reinforced by audiences getting younger and younger, as do, compared to many earlier decades, performers on the screen. Di Caprio is said to have been 20 million for his role.

The movie, made by the Scottish team that gave us "Trainspotting," is a kind of perverse Swiss Family Robinson, all the more Swiss given the holes in the cheesy script.

Generation Xer Richard (changed from the book to an American) is yet another 20-something who's searching for himself, in Thailand. Bangkok, the sex-for-sale capital of the world, attracts some (otherwise) quite respectable adults, including couples, including persons with deep pockets.

It also attracts many among the Young, the Dumb, and the Druggies. It's like the 1960s (and some of the 70s). Hippies experimented with substances, got together in communes, did all sorts of non-conformist things. Except that when millions do non-conformist thing they ipso facto adopt a new conformism.

Bangkok is (as shown or implied here) a dismal center of vices, or oddities such as offering tourists to drink snake blood -- which Richard does.

Even more dismal is the seedy (that's an euphemism) flea bag hotel he's staying in. There he is approached by "Daffy Duck," who seems to be vaguely British, is stoned out of his head, befriends Richard. Briefly, because he kills himself. But not before telling Richard about a Forbidden Island not in the tourist guides. The place is Paradise, with all its exquisite beaches, Technicolor lagoons and stuff, and with enough cannabis growing to last one a lifetime. Returning to his so-called room after Daffy's suicide, Richard finds on the door a handmade map of Paradise.

He will go there, of course. And he asks Francoise and Etienne a French couple next door (he hardly knows them) to come along.

They make the trip. But not before Richard, who is getting dumber and dumber, slips a copy of the map under the door of two other Generation Xers. (Don't ask).

I'll skip the itinerary. By going to a legal, open-to-the-public island neighboring their destination, the Idiot Three manage to swim the waters leading to Paradise.

The first thing they see is an immensity of cannabis plants. The second is a bunch of sinister, heavily armed locals, whom they evade.

Next stop is a commune of perhaps two dozen non-angels. They live --or so they think -- an idyllic life, are sort of self-sufficient (but not really), play a lot, do soccer, cricket, smoke dope by the ton, tattoo themselves and presumably have mucho sex. But there are no scenes of copulation. And rather coyly, hardly any male or female naked bodies (where it matters). It's no topless French Riviera. Absent too are: AIDS, pregnancies, doctors, dentists, condoms, you name it.

From the air (don't ask) the island looks like a lamb chop. I don't think this symbolizes anything. Newcomers and resident aliens are all constantly dumfounded by the scenic beauty of the place. There is even a waterfall whose top comes in handy for a Butch Cassidy mega-jump.

They commune-ists have made a deal with local peasants (the heavily armed guys) who live off the lucrative sea of grass: the foreigners can stay, but never, never add new people to the commune. Why the locals have settled for this arrangement makes no sense.

The commune is sort of led by a gal called Sal. Not particularly pretty, thirty-something , therefore older than the other womens, she is the top (and sole) authority.

The three new people are accepted. Richard and Francois become a twosome, to the detriment of her French lover Etienne. Richard becomes a hero for battling and killing a shark. (A kill-joy point out it was a mere baby shark). He makes a dumb "philosophical" speech about sharks and how to face them. (Do NOT try this at home or underwater). All is hunky-dory, except that Bugs (note the cartoonishness of names - pure infantilism). who is Sal's man, does not like Richard who in turn mistrusts him.

Lisa takes off for one her periodical trips to the nearest town, called something like Kopenyang. I can't remember. She asks for Richard to go with her. The commune people order all sorts of things, from vittels to body oil to cigarettes to tampons and more. Fact is too that the town is full of sleazy youths of all sexes, from the West (or the East, if you think of America) who are carousing, dancing, making out, drinking and doping. Richard calls his folks, at home. Where does the shopping money come from? Never mind.

Coincidence! It goes without saying that you've been expecting it. The two boys for whom Richard left a copy of the famous map are there, with two girls. How to prevent them from going to Paradise? Never mind.

Richard and somewhat spinsterish-looking Sal have sex. It is prudishly shown on a tent's surface like Chinese shadows. Here comes the great line of this cinematic masterpiece. Sal, about to go to sleep, tells Richard to do the same "Because tomorrow morning I may want some more sex."

The island starts becoming Paradise Lost upon ther return from the shopping trip. Francoise smells a sexual rat (R & S), is not pleased. Richard lies. Someone has a terrible problem with a tooth. (or perhaps that was before the trip?) Two or three men are attacked by sharks. A survivor, horribly mauled, disturbs the Happy Family with his cries.of agony. So they put him in distant corner of the beach and resume their fun and games. In spite of abundant Christian symbolism (prayers, crosses, etc.) the men and women are totally self-centered. (Richard's compassion will however, illustrate his humanity. After all, he is Leonardo). The two couples with the map's copy camp across the water. They are a dangerous no-no.

Sal mercilessly orders Richard to guard the beach, keep an eye on the potential intruders, keep them away no matter at what cost. Richard, alone in his outpost, goes bananas, hallucinates, eat a bug, has visions, also goes native a la Kurtz in "Apocalypse Now," a film referred to more than once. But he is a sub-Kurtz. The four kids raft over. The farmers with automatic weapons take care of them. Oh, the horror, the horror.

But worry not. An exodus from Paradise finds Mr.DiCaprio alive and well -- well, alive anyway -- and ready for another astronomic paycheck.

This movie about post-hippie retards is ludicrous and unpleasant. The exotic photography is fine. The music is not. It loads on generic-romantic sounds which come up on the least provocation.

It's like the experienced person who gave this advice to a new director: "Whenever you don't know what to do, throw in the Hallelujah chorus from Handel's "The Messiah.""

Copyright © Edwin Jahiel

Movie Reviews by Edwin Jahiel