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