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Review: The Beach: good book, bad movie

They've done it a million times - the 'creative geniuses' in Hollywood are adept at transforming a solid, entertaining book into a two-hour waste of time. The latest such bastardisation of a novel comes in the form of the big-budget film The Beach, starring Titanic pretty-boy Leonardo DiCaprio.
Adapted from the Alex Garland novel by the same name, the movie version parallels little of the story from the book, yet still follows Richard (DiCaprio) in his search for self-awareness through the adventure of travelling through Thailand. Richard finds the well-worn backpacker scene to be less than inspiring, until he stumbles upon a map which shows the way to a supposed utopian island located off the Thailand coast.


Leonardo DiCaprio and crew stink up the Beach.
photo: Taken from the Internet

The Beach

Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Tilda Swinton and Virginie Ledoyen
Director: Danny Boyle
Rating:3 out of 10

They've done it a million times - the 'creative geniuses' in Hollywood are adept at transforming a solid, entertaining book into a two-hour waste of time. The latest such bastardisation of a novel comes in the form of the big-budget film The Beach, starring Titanic pretty-boy Leonardo DiCaprio.

Adapted from the Alex Garland novel by the same name, the movie version parallels little of the story from the book, yet still follows Richard (DiCaprio) in his search for self-awareness through the adventure of travelling through Thailand. Richard finds the well-worn backpacker scene to be less than inspiring, until he stumbles upon a map which shows the way to a supposed utopian island located off the Thailand coast.

Together with Etienne and Francoise, a French couple he met at a Bangkok youth hostel, Richard reaches the destination to find a band of travellers enjoying the fruits of true paradise where white sand beaches, palm trees, and marijuana create the scene. However, trouble arises when the community's secret is threatened by Richard's lapse of judgement.

The film is full of holes, the largest of which being that the characters are developed to the consistency of runny oatmeal. As the movie jumps from scene to scene, little insight is given into the characters' personalities, most importantly Richard (DiCaprio). Rather than showing real interaction with the island dwellers, the movie thrusts their disposition down the viewer's throat via Richard's narratives. Key feelings of why Richard is attracted to one person and repulsed by another are assumed as fact with little offered support. The offshoot of this effects the integrity of the entire film - why should the viewer care what happens to the characters (whether shark attack or one-night stand) when nothing is known about them? Moreover, who would want to sit through a two-hour movie watching these people?

The plot also does little to save this film, as the movie jumps from situation to situation so quickly (again, with Richard's narratives expected to bridge the gaps) that the resulting story-line comes off as concocted and superficial, not to mention sporadic. The lack of story is evidenced by the tell-tale signs of any sub-par film, where overdone sound effects and overdramatised music attempt to enhance its lack of suspense. Really, how much noise can thrusting open a door really make? In The Beach, you'd think an atomic bomb had gone off in the theatre.

The most redeeming quality of The Beach is the contradictions between the relaxed island paradise and the fast-paced, decadent life in Bangkok. The feeling after watching this film is that one's time would have been better spent watching Gilligan's Island reruns, where the castaways at least have personalities, and entertainment is a possibility between the Skipper and his little buddy. Despite a disappointing film don't let the movie put you off from reading the book, which any traveller can appreciate.

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