"The Basketball Diaries" is a lurid and uncompromising study
of how drug addiction can destroy lives. The film has been
ignored or underrated because many people would find it
unwatchable. The protaganist's decline into the lowest of
society could hardly be made more graphic.
Leonardo DiCaprio stars as Jim Carroll, a Catholic high school
student and basketball star. He is also a would-be poet,
scribbling essays in a journal that he jealously guards. Jim's
risk-taking, anti-social behaviour and drug abuse soon leads to
the destruction of his life. Quitting school and leaving home,
he turns to hard-core criminal acts to get money for his next fix.
He has little understanding of his situation, no desire to
overcome his habits, and the only question is will he end up
in prison or in a morgue.
If you have the stomach for this sort of movie, you will be
rewarded. There are many outstanding scenes, such as Jim
attempting to cheer up friend and leukemia patient Bobby,
and Jim trying to play basketball while on downers.
There is a Catholic priest in "The Basketball Diaries" who
serves as a harsh father figure for Jim. Never smiling, he
seems to know what trouble Jim is getting into and is
determined to punish him for it. Carroll later has a
drug-induced fantasy where he stalks and shoots the
priest with an enormous rifle. He also has a confession
scene with the priest where he learns that sins whether
great or small carry the same number of "Hail Marys."
A great movie that is without a general audience, one can be
grateful for cable television so that it can be shown
uncensored and without compromise.
Copyright © 1995 Brian Koller