by J.R. Colson
[2000, Twentieth-Century Fox; starring Leonardo DiCaprio
and Virginie Ledoyen;
directed by Danny Boyle]
An apparently non-Jewish production (!), "The Beach" is breezy and simple to
follow: a modern American tourist -- DiCaprio, as "Richard" -- ends up in a run-down
hotel in Thailand. There, he meets a guy named Daffy, who smokes lots of
dope and seems to be a few beers short of a six-pack.
Daffy tells our hero DiCaprio about a secret, beautiful beach on an island off the Thai
coast. This beach is completely hidden from the ocean, nestled in the middle of huge
rocks and cliffs. It is a paradise, but few people know about it because boats cannot
access it easily, and further, no one is allowed to go there anyway because it has
been declared a national park by the government of Thailand.
Nevertheless, Daffy tells DiCaprio, he and a few cohorts went to the Beach
and created a hippie-type commune of maybe 50 people, who smoke dope, grow
vegetables and make their own socks with coconut hair.
The day after meeting Daffy, our hero DiCaprio finds him dead, an apparent victim
DiCaprio returns from the police station after inquiring about the suicide to
find a map to the secret Beach, drawn by Daffy. Intrigued, our hero recruits a young
French couple, who are also staying at the hotel, to accompany him to the Beach.
Unbeknownst to DiCaprio, the island/Beach is really controlled by AK-47-wielding pot-farmers
who grow their marijuana on the other side of the island, far away
from the Beach.
However, the hippie commune at the Beach has an unwritten deal with the rifle-toting
bad guys: the hippies can stay at the Beach if no other outsiders come to
the island. Luckily for the hippies, DiCaprio and Co. arrived undetected.
Things become multicultural for the viewer when our threesome is welcomed
to the hippie colony by...a Black guy with a British accent. Yep.
And of course, it turns out that the Black guy is one of the smartest people at
the hippie colony; he gives DiCaprio advice about the young Frenchwoman.
I must admit that that event inspired me -- the next time I want tips on romance,
I will seek out a negro with a limey twist in his voice.
At one point in the movie, the filmmakers unwittingly expose modern French
immorality by having the French couple play a cruel joke on DiCaprio. Modern French
culture is moral-less and value-less, an anything-goes, Marxist experiment,
and this fictitious-but-accurate incident made me smile. You gotta wonder
about modern France, where sex with a poodle is no big deal but faint praise
of Mussolini will get you jailed.
That population-limiting deal with the bad-guys-who-grow-pot is soon voided
by the hippies, since DiCaprio left a copy of the map to the Beach with two
stoners back on the mainland. Smart guy, that DiCaprio.
Feminism is also present in this movie, as we discover that the hippie commune is
run by a woman named Sal. Guess none of the men were up to the task.
This movie attempts to portray a psychological odyssey by DiCaprio, wherein he
pushes the boundaries of his normal psyche and "finds himself" via the trials and
tribulations of the Beach community. Do the filmmakers pull that off? Sort of.
Eventually, the bad-guy-pot-growers have had enough of the hippies, and go to
their camp to make big trouble with big guns.
This spells doom for the island commune, as the hippies are ordered by the
dope-growers to leave. Most do, although the leader of the hippies, Sal,
threatens to remain, and we never really learn if she left vertically, or
Is the hippie commune a sly reference to Communism? The viewer cannot
tell -- or at least I couldn't. I apparently haven't read enough Freudian
psychological claptrap to validate such a suggestion.
This movie is not too bad as a whole; multiculturalism and leftism are present
in this movie, but the damage from that is minimal. This film is pro-hippie, the sort
of movie that the Woodstock generation would love even though most of them are in
their 50s today. But the island scenery is great, a kind of tropical-vacation-on-film.
If you can see "The Beach" for free, go ahead, but don't spend any money on it.
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