The Basketball Diaries movie is a 1995 American independent drama directed by Scott Kalvert, starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Lorraine Bracco, James Madio, Patrick McGaw, and Mark Wahlberg.
It is an adaptation of the same named autobiographical book by Jim Carroll about his fall into a world of drug addiction, specifically Heroin. The running time for The Basketball Diaries Movie is 103 minutes. The movie takes place in the 1990’s, but the book was set in the 1960’s.
The Basketball Diaries tells the story of poet, author, and punk musician Jim Carroll. It starts off with his life as a teenager. At the beginning of the film he is a member of a High School basketball team with his friends Mickey (Mark Wahlberg), Pedro (James Madio), and Neutron (Patrick McGaw).
The basketball team is nearly unbeatable and is coached by Swifty (Bruno Kirby). Jim Carroll also has a friend that is dying of Leukemia, Bobby (Michael Imperioli). When Jim Carroll isn’t writing poetry or playing basketball he spends his time with his friends wandering around the streets of New York City getting into trouble. Jim Carroll and his friends have no ambition; they get off doing cheap high drugs like sniffing glue, committing small crimes like mugging people, trashing up hot dog stands, and beating the crap out of one of the opposing High School basketball teams. Soon after, Jim Carroll is expelled from his High School along with Mickey, Pedro, and also kicked out of his mom’s (Lorraine Bracco) house. Jim Carroll and his two remaining friends’ lives spiral down into a pathetic existence. They begin hustling for money, stealing, Jim prostituting himself to support his heroin addiction. Jim Carroll begins his long road back from the ugliness of drug abuse and crime with the help of an older neighborhood friend, Reggie (Ernie Hudson).
The Basketball Diaries Movie: The Review
The Basketball Diaries is a powerful and depressing Drama film with brilliant directing by Scott Kalvert and a great script done by Bryan Goluboff, with input by Jim Carroll. It also has a pretty good soundtrack that features music artist such as; Pearl Jam, PJ Harvey, The Doors, and some songs by Jim Carroll.
Jim Carroll contributed the single “People Who Died”, which was made into a music video that played on MTV around the time of this movie. The acting by the main actors and supporting cast is solid. As for the main actors, Mark Wahlberg (aka Marky Mark) and Leonardo DiCaprio they really stand out.
The Basketball Diaries movie would be Leonardo DiCaprio’s breakthrough role. He would soon go off and get even more popular with the releases of “Romeo + Juliet” and the “Titanic” films. Leonardo DiCaprio previously played a disabled kid in convincing fashion in the film, “What’s Eating Gilbert Grape”. He shows some more realism with his gritty display of how horrible it is to go through the cold turkey withdrawal symptoms of heroin in one scene. He puts on a powerful and depressing display during that scene. DiCaprio also puts on another great display when he is begging his mom for money like a little child, while his mind is ravaged by severe heroin abuse. He does great in that scene by being someone you want to show sympathy to and help, then losing control and threatening his mom.
Mark Wahlberg is basically a thuggish punk in The Basketball Diaries, but he does it with great natural ability. You will not like his character Mickey, but you have to respect his performance in it. Mark Wahlberg showed his natural acting talents in this film that helped him make the transition from rapper to a talented actor. He would become a star soon after The Basketball Diaries movie with his next two films,“Fear” and “Boogie Nights”.
Some of the supporting actors that caught my eye in this film are Jim’s mother played by Lorraine Bracco. She does a good job as a concerned loving mom that unfortunately has to make a cruel decision on her son by casting him out, because her son cannot be trusted as a drug addict. The underrated Ernie Hudson as Jim Carroll’s mentor/guardian angel type character Reggie does a great job of showing tough love to Jim. Reggie is determined in the cold turkey scene to help him quit heroin, despite the grueling withdrawal symptoms Jim goes through as he watches him.
Ernie Hudson deserves to be in more big time movies. I have always liked him since I first saw him in The Ghostbusters films and other movies like “The Crow”. Bruno Kirby who died in 2006 is solid in his performance as a creepy and disgusting High School Basketball coach who takes advantage of them. If The Basketball Diaries film were to have a scene that can be considered funny, I would say the scenes with Juliette Lewis as a doped up hooker named Diane Moody. I thought her performance as basically a crack whore was hilarious. I also thought the scene she had with Leo when she is all cleaned up and Jim is down on his luck was amusing.
The Basketball Diaries is a realistic anti-drug movie that sends a powerful message to not throw away your life on drugs when you have great potential. I like it better than Requiem for a Dream. Trainspotting is also an excellent film about drug use, although that film has comedic elements that seem to glamorize drug addiction instead of sending a message not to use drugs. The Basketball Diaries is all about realism and showing how ugly the drug world is without being boring.
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The Basketball Diaries Movie Review: Done by Rancel
The Basketball Diaries Movie (1995 Official Trailer)
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