One of the first and by far worst things that jumps out at me after watching this film isn’t the extensive amount of drugs used by young kids, or the glorifying of heroine and coke, the ease in which these guys got hold of these drugs, or even the implications of blatant homosexuality in Catholic schools or amongst the school faculty. My biggest issue comes from the violent dream Jim has in class where he comes in dressed head to toe in black with the boots, trench coat and concealed shotgun which he proceeds to turn on his fellow classmates and teacher. Ring any bells? The tragic Columbine shootings took place in 1999 (four years after this film was released) and were a similar echo to what takes place in this film. I’m not pointing fingers of blame, I’m just a little mortified by how much the scene sticks out in retrospect.
All that aside, this is one more flick about stained and ruined youth. We’ve all seen this makeup before; a kid who’s going places only to screw it up over (insert cliché here). This time around it just happens to be drugs. Leo and Mark Wahlberg are fantastic, even though I think Leo looked a little too much like Edward Furlong’s John Connor from T2 with that hair cut and I miss the intensity of Wahlberg’s gusto that seems to evaporate a little more with each new film (I mean shit, the Wahlberg I know and love wouldn’t have gotten his ass whooped in THE LOVELY BONES). It was also pretty funny seeing an early SOPRANOS roster team up with Lorraine Bracco and Michael Imperioli, even if they didn’t catch a whole lot of screen time.
THE BASKETBALL DIARIES is not a particularly “fun” film as it delves into darkness rather quickly and doesn’t pull any punches when it does. I remember that same buddy of mine trying to use Leo’s “If we go outside one of us is gonna get hurt” line back in the day, which pretty much ended up with him on the ground taking an awful beating like Leo does. This is a fine example of the “go big or go home” attitude from the nineties and I truly miss that, but in some ways I now see why some of that had to change.
Jim Carroll Interview and Reading: This is a six minute piece from Jim’s “Just Visiting” poetry reading recorded in Toronto, December 1981. Jim had a cameo in the film and without looking it up I guessed he was the junkie that went on about church. I was so right.
Previews: There are a couple trailers for flicks I’ve never heard of but no feature trailer.