The Beach (2000)

(On TV, April 2015)  I seem to remember The Beach being some kind of minor cult-classic film for disaffected young adults in the early 2000s, and watching the film fifteen years later does offer a few clues as to why.  The Big One is the promise of pure escapism, as our backpacking protagonist hears of a secluded Thai beach where expatriates have established their own little hedonistic society.  But as our main character understands soon enough, utopia doesn’t work so well in the real world.  The Beach at least has a bit of a plot running through it, even though the real star here remains either Leonardo Di Caprio (who, at the time, was starting to transition from teenage heartthrob to the serious actor he’s become today) or Danny Boyle’s direction, which showcases the fondness for hallucinatory deviations from objective reality that would be used to such good effect in later films such as 127 Hours.  The film doesn’t always move quickly, but it does have a small number of standout sequences, a lovely setting, an interesting performance by Di Caprio and a younger Tilda Swinton attempting a fairly generic role.  Still, there’s a whiff of pretention here in the way our privileged hero philosophizes on the nature of life through a temporary escape.  What’s meant as meditative comes across as jejune, and the protagonist isn’t much to cheer for.  Still, the stylish touches remain interesting and there’s always the scenery to look at. 

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