A Reel Shot in the Dark: 'Christ, Father, I have a dirty mouth'

It's been two weeks since I introduced you all to a fun film from 1995. Now it's time to share a gut-wrenching biopic from the same year, "The Basketball Diaries."

I bought this movie when I was in high school and didn't watch it until my freshman year of college. A couple of us girls got together and decided to check this one out; not the best pick for a fun girls night in.

I chose to watch it again last night because I remembered it being an incredibly moving and Leonardo DiCaprio (one of my absolute favorite actors, topped only by John Cusack) is quite nice to look at.

The rundown

"The Basketball Diaries" (1995) is a biopic about the teen years of poet, author and punk musician Jim Carroll (1949-2009). The film is an adaptation of Carroll's autobiographical work by the same name and, according to the end credits, the events of the movie actually transpired before he turned 17. Jim (DiCaprio) is a basketball star at a NYC Catholic high school that dabbles with heroin on the weekends and eventually spirals out of control as he discovers the painless existence he can live while on the drugs. The high he experiences makes him forget that his friend is dying of leukemia or that his coach (Bruno Kirby) tries to take advantage of the boys on the team. The viewer can both see what is happening to Jim, as well as hear what he writes through narration of what he writes in the journal he never leaves home without.

Jim has three prominent friends: Mickey (Mark Wahlberg, fresh off his Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch fame), Neutron (Patrick McGaw) and Pedro (James Madio). Mickey is the typical loose cannon, bad boy friend that goes overboard and is with Jim on the streets. Neutron is the complete opposite of Mickey; he stays in school, doesn't do drugs and gets a basketball scholarship. Pedro is the sidekick, he wants to be a big shot but he doesn't play basketball, he only manages the team and is treated poorly.


How does it rate?

This film is absolutely not for those who can't handle colorful language, awkward sex scenes or intense drug-related visuals. If you can handle those three things, I would highly suggest checking it out. "Basketball Diaries" is the most intense and realistic anti-drug film I have seen. I wish the language weren't as strong, because then they could show it to kids and probably convince a decent portion of them to not start doing drugs to begin with. However, I can imagine the outraged parents now if schools tried to share this with students.

Jim's narrative voice during his highs as well as when he figures something out about life is an effective way to tell this story. I think it makes the viewer feel more connected with this kid who is seriously troubled and destroying all of his personal relationships. "The Basketball Diaries" really manages to pull at the viewers emotional strings and draw them into the story. You feel bad for Jim to a certain point but then you start to get mad at him for not being able to get his act together and live up to his potential. His mother sees that he is spiraling downward and throws him out on the street, at which point Jim thinks it's the best thing to happen to him since dropping out of school. As a viewer you just want to yell at the screen and tell Jim to listen to his mother and clean himself up.

This film is definitely worth the hour and a half that you will spend in front of the television. The viewer comes away from it having a higher respect for those who have come back from drug addiction or a very strong desire never to get involved with that scene.

I could see this being the film that really introduced Dicaprio to biopics as well as character acting. Even as a young actor, a year before "Titanic" rocketed him to fame, DiCaprio was able to completely become whoever he was portraying. The way in which he was able to depict the effects that drug addiction has on people is so realistic that the viewer starts to believe he is actually on drugs.

As great as this film really is, it's not exactly up to today's standard of political correctness. Pedro is stereotyped as the thief who breaks into cars the teens steal, breaks into stores, introduces them all to heroine and takes things from the visiting team during basketball games. Wahlberg also uses racial slurs when referring to Pedro and insinuates that his mother is a prostitute and a junkie.

Despite the dreadful language and scenes that can be difficult to watch, this film is one of the best biopics I have seen. It is most definitely not one of those movies you watch when you are in the mood for a comedy or anything remotely lighthearted. "The Basketball Diaries" is an incredible film that leaves anyone who has not been touched by addiction with a much better understanding of the dark world of drugs and living on the streets. I highly recommend this movie, just keep in mind that it earns its R rating just on language alone; nevermind the graphic depiction of drug addiction with related strong violence and sexuality, for which it was given the rating.

Rating: 4 stars of 5

Most memorable parts

Quote: Unfortunately the most memorable quote I chose is not appropriate for this post. However, I will share one that stood out to me otherwise. "When I was young, about eight or so, I tried making friends with God by inviting him to my house to watch the World Series. He never showed."

Scene: When Jim tries to detox is not only memorable but it sends a powerful message to viewers. The scene really gives people a glimpse into addiction and the awful things that happen when someone who is truly hooked on drugs tries to free themselves from their addiction.

Character: I seriously enjoyed Leonardo DiCaprio's rendition of Carroll, but I think my favorite character has to be Neutron. He disappears halfway through the movie, but he is the friend who resists the pressure to get high and he goes on to succeed in life and go to college while his friends have to watch and think that could have been them if they had resisted as well.

Song: Catholic Boy, written by Jim Carroll and performed by Pearl Jam and Jim Carroll.

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