The Beach

[2000, Twentieth-Century Fox; starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Virginie Ledoyen;
directed by Danny Boyle]

by J.R. Colson

April 2002

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 of suicide.

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 horizontally.

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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