Rated: R for obscenities, explicit drug use, candid sexuality and violence. Reviewed by: Chris Release date: April 21, 1995 Released by: New Line Cinema
Talented young actor Leonardo DiCaprio plays Jim Carroll - student, basketball player and drug addict. Based on Carroll's autobiography set in the 1960s, the film is updated to present day.
Carroll attends a Catholic school in Manhattan and although he looks innocent in his school uniform, his appearance is deceiving. He and his friends are smart-alecky street fighters and thieves, and his heroin addiction quickly takes him down the road to humiliation and despair.
DiCaprio has some very heavy scenes. He is either yelling, crying, shooting drugs or arguing with his mother, played by Lorraine Bracco who is unusually shrill. The explicit drug and sexual scenes are quite disturbing to watch, perhaps more so because the baby-face DiCaprio looks like the boy next door.
DiCaprio gives a terrific performance, proving again that he is one of Hollywood's best young actors. He takes chances with his roles, playing a variety of characters (The Quick and the Dead and This Boy's Life), but his transformation into a lost, drug addicted teen happens too fast to be fully absorbed.
Basketball Diaries, directed by Scott Kalbert is an intense, dark film. DiCaprio's vigorous portrayal is admirable, but ultimately the harsh story and bleak images were agonizing to observe.