Directed by Scott Kalvert
Running time: 103 minutes
Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia)
The Basketball Diaries is a 1995 American drama film directed by Scott Kalvert, starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Lorraine Bracco, James Madio, and Mark Wahlberg. It is based on the autobiographical book of the same name by Jim Carroll. The film centres around Jim Carroll (DiCaprio), a promising teenage basketball player who develops an addiction to heroin with his misguided friends.
I’d always heard that Leonardo DiCaprio was amazing in this film & have been meaning to watch it for years. Unfortunately, I found this movie pretty disappointing. Leo is good but I really wasn’t missing much by waiting so long to see this.
First of all – hey, I didn’t know Leonardo DiCaprio & Mark Wahlberg had been in a film together before The Departed! Their acting has definitely improved since The Basketball Diaries (especially Wahlberg’s). They’re both fine in this but it still felt a little bit like young actors playing at being drug addicts. However, at least they were close to the ages they were playing and were believable as high schoolers (I assume they were in their 20s but it’s not like they were 40 playing 17 like in Grease). And I’ve sort of forgotten how “pretty” Leo once was now that he’s aged & really proven himself as an actor. Man he looks young in this! I know it took him years to shake off the pretty boy thing, which wasn’t really fair as he’s an excellent actor. Is he as good in this as people say? I’d say he’s definitely showing major promise here. It’s a shame the movie itself probably lets him down a bit.
As for the movie… I’m not sure what it is that I found disappointing. I think, for one thing, it hasn’t aged well. It’s a 1995 movie but actually feels older. I don’t know if maybe it didn’t have a massive budget? And as I’ve said, for some reason I didn’t really buy into these pretty young actors as drug addicts. I also felt like the movie was trying too hard to be “cool” and stylish but it didn’t really work. I watched this last week & can only really remember two scenes well (a good one and one that’s notorious). After the death of a friend (minor spoiler but not really), the friends play basketball in the rain. That was a really good scene. But I’d completely forgotten why this film later became so controversial until I got to the school shooting scene. Yikes! WAY too similar to things that would happen four years later. And then again. And again. And again. And again…. But I digress!
The Basketball Diaries has had pretty good word of mouth over the years but I think, in some cases, people are remembering a movie they liked when younger but haven’t watched since. I can definitely see people my sort of age having a soft spot for it if they saw it at the time but it hasn’t aged well. Leo’s performance is very good, though, and the main reason to bother seeing this now if you haven’t already (I’d definitely recommend it to DiCaprio fans). But I just didn’t find the actors believable as drug addicts (which I don’t think was the fault of the actors themselves). The movie makes its biggest mistake in, I think, not making any of the characters very sympathetic. If the characters are unlikeable, you’re not going to care about them and the drug addiction that’s destroying their lives. I don’t know… It’s not a bad film & is worth a watch just to see Leo but it could have done a better job telling the story.
My Rating: 6/10