Posted by: William | June 3, 2008

Forgotten Movies: The Basketball Diaries

1800234414p I watched The Basketball Diaries tonight; a drug culture drama from early on in Leonardo DiCaprio’s career. Also, a film adaptation of a series of journal entries from the true story of well known and respected Jim Carroll. Since the movie came in 1995, you might not even remember it. It wasn’t exactly a blockbuster smash hit then either, but to date, it’s still one of my favorites.

For those who haven’t seen the movie, the story follows Jim (Leo) as he transforms from reckless, but fun loving middle-lower class kid, quickly gaining the attention of basketball recruiters, to a full fledged homeless junkie willing to do absolutely anything for a fix. There’s very little about this movie that doesn’t scream “mid-90’s!”. The acting. The lighting. The setting. The lingo. But what is unusual is a really stunning performance from Leo. By today’s standards, a lot falls as far as dramas go. But Leo’s acting, even today, is still rarely matched.

While the movie is good as it is, it’s not especially entertaining. But that’s alright. Entertainment here doesn’t seem to be chiefly the point. It’s one of those few films that you watch and don’t enjoy and on some level never want to watch again, but at the same time you can’t turn it off and you won’t bad mouth it when it’s over. At some points, the gruesome sobriety on screen will make even a person sitting alone feel awkward or queasy inside.

I’ve never been a rock bottom drug addict in New York City before, so it’s hard for me to say just how realistic the culture portrayed is. But it seems to me that regardless of that, the point is clear and the culture has little to do with it. Jim gave himself, foolishly, to a dangerous bride. Like so many of us here and now, he was bewitched and intoxicated by what he’d surrendered himself to and he couldn’t walk away. Of course, we might hide it better than a junkie.

If you haven’t seen The Basketball Diaries, go grab it. And if you haven’t seen it in a while, maybe you’d like a refresher. Just remember, it’s not exactly a popcorn flick.


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