The Beach ★★★★

Watched as part of the July 2018 Letterboxd Scavenger Hunt
My list | Jasmeet's master list
22. Shark week begins. Watch a film set near or on a water body. (beach, ocean, river etc.)

This is one of those films that has become notorious in my life merely from the amount of times I put off watching it (I think this is the eighth of my scavenger hunt lists it's appeared on in the last two years), but with the movie itself being not particularly special enough to warrant that kind of notoriety. Originally recommended to me by novelist Chris Taylor, who in 2010 published a better-written novel called Harvest Season on the same subject, it's the fascinating tale of inherently privileged white tourists in southeast Asia who, in their obsessive quest for "authenticity" while shielding their hidden finds from all the other white privileged tourists, end up in a bizarre haze of drug-running, tribal politics and murder.

Directed by Danny Boyle as his high-profile Hollywood-debut follow-up to his surprise international indie hit Trainspotting, who was forced to drop his first choice for a lead (longtime collaborator Ewan McGregor) for a more bankable post-Titanic Leonardo DiCaprio, it's only long after the fact that it's also become fascinating that this was adapted from the self-published debut novel by the now famous writer/director Alex Garland (Ex Machina, Annihilation), a magical-realist little ditty based on his real-life tourist adventures in southeast Asia as a youth, which accidentally became a word-of-mouth bestseller which was eventually republished by a major press, kicking off his public artistic career which eventually led him decades later to Hollywood. Given all this pedigree, the finished movie is surprisingly not as great as you would expect, not a bad afternoon-killer but not exactly a movie I would recommend going out of your way to see either. A solid minor hit for those who wish to be completists of any of the people mentioned above, this gorgeously filmed but oftentimes logic-defying mellerdramer will best be enjoyed with low expectations and tropical drink in hand.