By Gire, Dann
Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL)
Written by John Hodge; based on the novel by Alex Garland. Produced by Andrew McDonald. Directed by Danny Boyle. A 20th Century-Fox release. Rated R (sexual situations, language, violence). Running time: 119 minutes.
Richard Leonardo DiCaprio
Sal Tilda Swinton
Francoise Virginie Ledoyen
Etienne Guillaume Canet
Daffy Robert Carlyle
"The Beach" begins as "The Blue Lagoon" with a romantic triangle twist, then tumbles into a "Lord of the Flies" thing as Leonardo DiCaprio discovers - then loses - Utopia on Earth.
DiCaprio's character, a hedonistic wanderer named Richard, doesn't appear to care much about anything, and that more or less becomes the operative reaction to the arid "Beach."
With its exotic locations and detached voice-over narration, "The Beach" could be a gorgeously photographed but dry lecture about the destructive power of telling lies. Everything bad that happens in this story can be traced back to some fib that Richard has issued in the service of being a selfish jerk.
The story opens with Richard, another one of those spiritually empty Americans seeking meaning in exotic foreign countries, giving us his philosophy of experience: "If it hurts, it's probably worth it!"
On a personal joy ride in Bangkok, Richard meets a grizzled nut case named Daffy (Robert Carlyle) who, in a drug-induced fog, tells him of paradise, a perfect beach, hidden from the world, and not far away.
The next morning, Richard finds Daffy ducked under his bed, slashed to ribbons by a razor. He also finds a map to the secret beach tacked to his door, and makes plans to find the place.
He shares the map with two French travelers at his hotel, Francoise (Virginie Ledoyen) and her lover Etienne (Guillaume Canet). He doesn't really want the young man to come, just the beautiful Francoise, who he has watched from afar.
So, Richard thinks nothing of asking the French couple to take a boat ride, then take a two-mile swim to a secret beach, which turns out to be guarded by marijuana farmers armed to the dentures with machine guns. …