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The UnPopular Opinion: The Beach

04.23.2014

THE UNPOPULAR OPINION is an ongoing column featuring different takes on films that either the writer HATED, but that the majority of film fans LOVED, or that the writer LOVED, but that most others LOATHED. We're hoping this column will promote constructive and geek fueled discussion. Enjoy!

****SOME SPOILERS ENSUE****

With the recent news that Danny Boyle and Leonardo DiCaprio may reteam on Sony's Steve Jobs biopic, I thought it might be the perfect time to revisit what I consider to be one of Boyle's best and most underrated films. THE BEACH was released in 2000 right at the height of DiCaprio's post-TITANIC fandom and remains an early sample of the fiery Leo we have come to expect with every role. Part LORD OF THE FLIES and part TRAINSPOTTING, THE BEACH is an enduring and powerful psychological thriller that deserves to be recognized.

THE BEACH, adapted from the Alex Garland novel, transports the viewer to the utopian paradise of Thailand, a land foreign to most Americans. Taking us through the perspective of a young man exploring the world on his own for the first time may not seem to be the most unique setup for a film, but it has rarely been presented in such a "warts and all" type film. There is no gloss on THE BEACH but rather a portrait of a very real scenario that any gullible young person could find themselves in: follow your dick and you may regret it. The forbidden fruit in THE BEACH takes the form of beautiful french actress Virginia Ledoyen and her boyfriend played by Guillaume Canet.

Damn, Begbie let himself go after TRAINSPOTTING.

As the trio embarks to find the mysterious beach in the title from a map provided by a goofy Scotsman named Daffy (the always awesome Robert Carlyle), Richard (DiCaprio) and Francoise (Ledoyen) fall in love. Now, by this point you may be thinking that THE BEACH sounds like every crappy teen fantasy and just plopping Leonardo DiCaprio into the lead provides the perfect box office boost for an otherwise stale story. You would be right if that was the movie THE BEACH would be from beginning to end, but Boyle's film morphs from road picture, to travelogue, to psychedelic trip, to thriller, and eventually existential conundrum.

Reaching the mysterious beach, the trio discovers a tribe of expatriates led by Sal (Tilda Swinton) who live by their own code. Like any kid who has read Peter Pan, Richard wants to join these Lost Boys and remain a young, twentysomething who drinks, smokes, and f*cks day and night, forever. But, real life invades in the guise of responsibility, death, and morality, which DiCaprio sells as a performer way ahead of his age.

Where are they now from left to right: working actress, top Hollywood star, acclaimed director

Only 26 at the time THE BEACH was made, Leonardo DiCaprio stepped in to the role of Richard when Ewan McGregor left due to creative differences with Danny Boyle. THE BEACH would have felt very different with McGregor, himself a very talented actor, in the lead. DiCaprio, dying to break away from the mold TITANIC and ROMEO + JULIET forced him into, created a tormented and enraged young man in this movie that would go on to become his trademark. But, unlike the movie star sheen in those two films, THE BEACH dares to make Richard relatable but very unlikeable. The choices he makes in this movie are hard to defend, even if we can understand why he makes them.

Leonardo DiCaprio was nominated for the Razzie for Worst Actor for this film, an honor that remains the sole nomination for that award he has ever received. With such a track record, it seems highly out of place to regard THE BEACH as a smudge on an otherwise impeccable resume. That is because DiCaprio is phenomenal in this movie. The entire cast is. Ledoyen, Swinton, Carlyle, and Canet all deliver spectacular performances for Boyle who still maintained the gritty, yet ethereal approach he used for TRAINSPOTTING, SHALLOW GRAVE, and A LIFE LESS ORDINARY. The screenplay from John Hodge, Boyle's collaborator on those same films, would predate the director's working relationship with Alex Garland, the author of the novel. Garland would go on to script SUNSHINE and 28 DAYS LATER for Boyle as well as the fan favorite DREDD from last year.

Morpheus never offered a green pill...

THE BEACH retains a very "what happens in Thailand..." vibe that makes you question just how many people in real life have experienced such a life altering vacation like what we see in this film. I am sure crazy shit like this happens all the time but we never hear about it. Consider THE BEACH a cautionary tale to be paired as a double feature with Eli Roth's HOSTEL and you may guarantee tourism will drastically decline to Europe and Asia. What you will do is showcase an actor and a director at the beginning of their careers, just as they begin to peak.

Oh, and if you have any suggestions for The UnPopular Opinion I’m always happy to hear them. You can send along an email to alexmaidy@joblo.com, spell it out below, slap it up on my wall in Movie Fan Central, or send me a private message via Movie Fan Central. Provide me with as many movie suggestions as you like, with any reasoning you'd care to share, and if I agree then you may one day see it featured in this very column!
Source: JoBlo.com

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+1
6:29AM on 04/24/2014
I have to say i wasn’t blown away by this movie when i first saw it. But after I went backpacking in Thailand a couple years back, I totally connected with this movie. Being abroad in a region where you feel you have complete freedom to do what you want, you are suddenly confronted with yourself and what you want out of life. I think the movie perfectly captured that feeling i had when i was traveling. I also visited the beach where they filmed the movie (koh pee pee leh), and it was amazing!
I have to say i wasn’t blown away by this movie when i first saw it. But after I went backpacking in Thailand a couple years back, I totally connected with this movie. Being abroad in a region where you feel you have complete freedom to do what you want, you are suddenly confronted with yourself and what you want out of life. I think the movie perfectly captured that feeling i had when i was traveling. I also visited the beach where they filmed the movie (koh pee pee leh), and it was amazing! Immediately made me want to start my own community! Any MFC's wanna Join :P ?
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1:50AM on 04/24/2014

I'm sorry, but you're wrong.

This movie sucks big time. The aggravating thing about it is that this movie could have been an awesome action-adventure, but instead it's just insipid and morose. Boyle has made some engaging films, but this trash is not one of them.
This movie sucks big time. The aggravating thing about it is that this movie could have been an awesome action-adventure, but instead it's just insipid and morose. Boyle has made some engaging films, but this trash is not one of them.
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11:56AM on 04/24/2014
Seeing as how it was based on a book that wasn't an action-adventure, why would they want to make the movie into that? Just because The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo movie adaptation into a romance worked well, doesn't mean that changing the tone of movies from their books is a good idea overall.
Seeing as how it was based on a book that wasn't an action-adventure, why would they want to make the movie into that? Just because The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo movie adaptation into a romance worked well, doesn't mean that changing the tone of movies from their books is a good idea overall.
10:42PM on 04/23/2014
Man, I totally agree with the article. THE BEACH is highly underrated, and it feels kind of like a hidden gem in Danny Boyle's pantheon akin to SUNSHINE in that respect.
Man, I totally agree with the article. THE BEACH is highly underrated, and it feels kind of like a hidden gem in Danny Boyle's pantheon akin to SUNSHINE in that respect.
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6:38PM on 04/23/2014
Didn't enjoy it but ill admit it was cause i read the book first, which pretty cinematic in their own right, it could've made for an easy direct adaption but they made odd, unnecessary choices that didn't add to it just lessened its power. Still the film looks beautiful and I'm a fan of both of these guys, not to mention it was an important experience for Boyle (it was his first time playing with a big budget). I'm sure if i had seen it fresh I would've enjoyed it a whole bunch.
Didn't enjoy it but ill admit it was cause i read the book first, which pretty cinematic in their own right, it could've made for an easy direct adaption but they made odd, unnecessary choices that didn't add to it just lessened its power. Still the film looks beautiful and I'm a fan of both of these guys, not to mention it was an important experience for Boyle (it was his first time playing with a big budget). I'm sure if i had seen it fresh I would've enjoyed it a whole bunch.
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6:03PM on 04/23/2014
I'll be the one to say I wasn't a fan of this film. One of the weaker movies in the filmography of both Leo and Danny Boyle. That said, I don't hate the movie. There are some fantastic scenes in this movie, but as a whole it never really came together for me, and isn't a film I have any desire to watch again (although I tried once when it was on tv). It seemed like it was trying to do too much. In one scene you have a serious murder by drug lords, then a few scenes later is some odd video-game
I'll be the one to say I wasn't a fan of this film. One of the weaker movies in the filmography of both Leo and Danny Boyle. That said, I don't hate the movie. There are some fantastic scenes in this movie, but as a whole it never really came together for me, and isn't a film I have any desire to watch again (although I tried once when it was on tv). It seemed like it was trying to do too much. In one scene you have a serious murder by drug lords, then a few scenes later is some odd video-game type images.
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1:53PM on 04/23/2014
I LOVE THE BEACH. No film has ever made me want to travel more or even just...go to the beach.
I LOVE THE BEACH. No film has ever made me want to travel more or even just...go to the beach.
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1:16PM on 04/23/2014

This movie

is highly underrated just like the fountain is. This still remains one of my all time fav films.
is highly underrated just like the fountain is. This still remains one of my all time fav films.
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11:25AM on 04/23/2014
Dug the movie as well, I was a huge fan of the novel and I remember when McGregor was originally but Boyle wouldn't (or couldn't) wait for him to wrap Phantom Menace. As it stands, the movie still holds up well today.
Dug the movie as well, I was a huge fan of the novel and I remember when McGregor was originally but Boyle wouldn't (or couldn't) wait for him to wrap Phantom Menace. As it stands, the movie still holds up well today.
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10:04AM on 04/23/2014
You bring up a lot of good points, and I agree with a number of them; especially about the cast, they do their best with what they are given.

However, as great as moments and certain scenes are the film is too tonally confused for me, never quite deciding on being a full on dark comedy (of sorts) vs. an adventure romp, so both sides get short changed (imo). Definitely not worthy of all the hate it gets though. Being ambitious and failing is worthy of praise.
You bring up a lot of good points, and I agree with a number of them; especially about the cast, they do their best with what they are given.

However, as great as moments and certain scenes are the film is too tonally confused for me, never quite deciding on being a full on dark comedy (of sorts) vs. an adventure romp, so both sides get short changed (imo). Definitely not worthy of all the hate it gets though. Being ambitious and failing is worthy of praise.
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9:43AM on 04/23/2014
I've never understood the hate this movie gets. The main reason it failed is because it wasn't what Leo's young female fans wanted to see at the time. This is actually more of a guy's movie. Any time it's on I'm mesmerized and watch the whole thing.
I've never understood the hate this movie gets. The main reason it failed is because it wasn't what Leo's young female fans wanted to see at the time. This is actually more of a guy's movie. Any time it's on I'm mesmerized and watch the whole thing.
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9:43AM on 04/23/2014

Excellent Movie

This has been one of my favorite films for a long time. I remember when it came out, everyone was still sold on Leo just being the teenie bopper made famous by Titanic and Romeo and Juliet. You could make someone watch this film back then, and they would say he did poorly just because of that, but its absolutely the opposite. His performance (for a 26 year old especially), really is excellent. The scene at the end where he witnesses the tourists shot in front of him is powerhouse acting. I
This has been one of my favorite films for a long time. I remember when it came out, everyone was still sold on Leo just being the teenie bopper made famous by Titanic and Romeo and Juliet. You could make someone watch this film back then, and they would say he did poorly just because of that, but its absolutely the opposite. His performance (for a 26 year old especially), really is excellent. The scene at the end where he witnesses the tourists shot in front of him is powerhouse acting. I always kinda saw this as a younger generations Apocalypse Now, believe it or not. The movie has a fast pace, great supporting characters, and a real story about paradise lost and how nothing lasts forever. I myself am a devoted traveler, I have read the book, and I have seen all of Boyle's work, and most of Dicaprio's. If you havent, do yourself a favor and see this movie. You wont be dissapointed.
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9:00AM on 04/23/2014
It's a good movie that is underrated. I often think of this movie as a grown-up version of Lord of The Flies. However, I recently watched it and it feels dated, costume wise. But the message and the theme still hold up.
It's a good movie that is underrated. I often think of this movie as a grown-up version of Lord of The Flies. However, I recently watched it and it feels dated, costume wise. But the message and the theme still hold up.
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8:28AM on 04/23/2014

Great Movie, unfairly underrated !!!

Very good choice guys, this movie is awesome, and way ahead of it's time ! I think this movie suffered of the over exposition of Leo right after Titanic and people wanted him to fail for his next movie which was very unfair, because the beach is an amazing road trip, a metaphor on life, youth, coming to age, and the remaining lost paradises on earth, all mixed in a global-planet-society where people from my generation (30 something) and any generation can complety join : who has never dreamed
Very good choice guys, this movie is awesome, and way ahead of it's time ! I think this movie suffered of the over exposition of Leo right after Titanic and people wanted him to fail for his next movie which was very unfair, because the beach is an amazing road trip, a metaphor on life, youth, coming to age, and the remaining lost paradises on earth, all mixed in a global-planet-society where people from my generation (30 something) and any generation can complety join : who has never dreamed about being all his life in a spring break, who has never though about the absurdity of the life when you work hard instead of living your dreams ? I'm still surprised why this movie failed in the US where you guys, give your lifes to your jobs, without enjoying life as much as here in europe where we have 8 weeks of holidays... Remember what Ferris said : " Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it. "
Suggestions for the unpopular opinion :
Hated Movies :
- The Fountain
- Alexander
- Hulk (ang lee)
- Torque
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