The Beach was directed, written, and produced respectively by Danny Boyle, John Hodge, and Andrew Macdonald, the team that gave us the overrated Shallow Grave and Trainspotting. Caught between a star and an anxious studio, they opted for making as bland a film as possible. Still, the bummer tone of the novel comes through right up until the last shot, which undermines any meaning the film might have had. The Beach is not a total waste of time thanks to Tilda Swinton's performance as the mad, power-driven den mother to an international colony of twentysomething travelers. Swinton looks like a scary but gorgeous praying mantis. When she seduces DiCaprio, she really seems to eat him alive.
A husband and wife, refugees from the former Yugoslavia, visit a London obstetrician. The husband wants the wife to abort the baby she's carrying because it was conceived during a rape by a band of enemy soldiers. The doctor avoids taking action; when the baby is born, the adoring couple names her Chaos. A teenage junkie, on his way to a soccer match abroad, nods off in an airport baggage bin and winds up in Bosnia, where he uses his heroin stash to anesthetize a man who's about to have his leg amputated. The junkie is feted as a war hero and becomes the caretaker of a blind child. The rebellious daughter of a Conservative member of Parliament falls in love with a refugee from the former Yugoslavia and brings him home to dinner. He presents his hostess with flowers and says, "I want to thank you for your hostility."
Directed by Danny Boyle
Written by John Hodge from the book by Alex Garland
A Twentieth Century Fox release
Written and directed by Jasmin Dizdar
A Trimark release
Opens February 18
Jasmin Dizdar's generous, low-budget British feature was one of the best films at last year's Cannes Film Festival. Nine months later, it seems like a more witty, wise, and succinct Magnolia. Dizdar employs the same woven-tapestry approach as Paul Thomas Anderson, but to diametrically opposite ends. For Dizdar, it's political and cultural conflict, rather than narcissism, that shapes the human comedy.
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