Main cast: Leonardo DiCaprio (Richard), Virginie Ledoyen (Françoise), Guillaume Canet (Étienne), Robert Carlyle (Daffy), Paterson Joseph (Keaty), Lars Arentz-Hansen (Bugs), Daniel Caltagirone (Unhygienix), and Tilda Swinton (Sal)
Director: Danny Boyle
The environmentalists in me almost prompted me to give this movie the miss. The Beach is notorious for wrecking the ecosystem of the Phi Phi Le, the island that had the misfortune to be the set of this movie. This movie is also notorious for its pushed-back release date and persistent rumors of giggling test audiences. Honey, if I’m in the test audience I’d be throwing tomatoes at the screen. It is that laughable.
Poor Phi Phi Le, wrecked for this movie. At least, if The Beach were a masterpiece that changes the world order, that’s something. But no, the movie is an amateurish back to nature kitsch that aspires to the new Lord of the Flies but ends up not even close.
Our hero Richard is an American traveler in Bangkok. He is in search of adventure, far away from the madding bustle that is civilization. While romping around clad only in a towel to delight the young girls and the men who love this sort of thing, our hero meets a strange man Duffy, who gives him a map to an elusive “Beach Paradise”, unspoiled by nature. Daffy commits suicide, and Richard persuades Françoise, the woman in the next motel room (he has a crush on her), and her boyfriend Étienne to come with him to search for this place.
They find it, an island actually, populated by fellow American and Swede tourists. Led by Sal, these people live in eternal harmony with Mother Nature, supporting themselves by selling opium. Richard and his new-found friends spend all day playing on the beach, fishing, and getting bitten by sharks. Nice. Richard also wooes Françoise from Étienne and boinks Sal. And from here onwards, the movie loses the remnants of its already flimsy focus.
What is this movie trying to do, apart from promoting Phi Phi Le as the ideal tourist haven and catering to the libido of the Leonardo DiCaprio Shirtless Fan Club? When Richard goes bonkers and starts turning into a savage-like person, it’s laughable. Nothing about this movie is convincing, and the half-hearted “civilization = bad, nature = good, human nature = bad” preachiness comes off more cloying than a Hallmark greeting card. After one hour, the movie redefines the term It drags.
Richard, the most important person in this story, is played by Mr DiCaprio in a lazy DGAF way that makes the character more bratty than a jaded person he is supposed to be. Poor Françoise is a complete cow, albeit a beautiful one, who has the character of a dull wallpaper. The other actors are nondescript, props with beautifully bronzed and aerobicized bodies.
At the end of the day, The Beach is just another underbaked romanticization of the Great White Virgin Nature Resorts of Exotic Asia, complete with trite attempts at Greenpeace messages. A complete waste of ecosystem, money, and time. Yes, the rumors are true: this movie is bad. I’d take a copy of Discovering Thailand to this anyday. Great All Saints song though.