The Basketball Diaries movie poster
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The Basketball Diaries movie poster

The Basketball Diaries Movie Review

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If there's one movie that has gotten a lot more press in the last couple of years than it did when it came out, that movie is The Basketball Diaries, a Leonardo DiCaprio anti-drug film.

It is one scene that has gotten this film in trouble, and that is the dream sequence where DiCaprio walks into his classroom wearing black clothing and goes on a shooting spree, killing his classmates and teacher while his friends laugh and cheer. If it sounds familiar, it's not just you, but before accusations start flying (well, they already have) about the influence of media on youth, maybe people should look at the bigger picture this movie is painting and then they will hope that the media influences youth.

DiCaprio stars as high-schooler Jim Carroll (who wrote the book that this movie is based on, which is based on his true life experience) who is a basketball star. He likes to write but he also likes to get high, but when he starts using heroin, his life is turned upside down. He is kicked out of school, out of his house, and goes absolutely crazy as he tries to fulfill his cravings for drugs.

The Basketball Diaries paints a vivid picture that should be able to deter anyone from using drugs. The most horrifying image I can think of is when DiCaprio is being held in a room by one of his caring friends, and he is trying to claw his way out while he is drooling and his nose is running.

This is DiCaprio's best performance. If you liked him in Titanic or The Beach, you haven't seen anything yet. He starts out as a pretty nice kid who does like getting into trouble, and then when he really gets into trouble, he goes deeper, and gets into even worse trouble. This is the performance that people will remember him for.

The Basketball Diaries is much like Requiem for a Dream in the way that it bashes on drugs (and shows what happens to those who use drugs). Both movies have their ups and downs: Diaries tells a true story, so we can relate a little better to the characters here than the characters in Dream, but Dream is, to put it flatly, more entertaining. The Basketball Diaries is a good movie but begins to drag in the last forty minutes, as we basically see DiCaprio get high over and over again. Just when you think things are going to get better, they take a turn for the worst, and after a while you just wish that the movie will get over.

Again, The Basketball Diaries is a good movie, but you can only take so much darkness in two hours. However, if not for the powerful drug message, see it for Leonardo DiCaprio's superb performance.

Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.

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