We were talking about the “Basketball Diaries” movie last night. One of my favorite books. I haven’t seen the movie, just some YouTube clips, but it looks horrible to me. They didn’t even come close to capturing the feel of the book. Maybe it works as entertainment in it’s own right. But as an adaption of the book it’s all wrong.
First of all, the period the book was written — the mid-1960s — is a crucial aspect of the book. And WHY they would film it in the present is unforgivable. One of the things that made Carroll’s book so compelling was that he was like one of the first of the ’60s street hippie types. Way ahead of his times in that way, and a pioneer in a strange way, exploring unchartered waters. He was like a prototype for what would come later. Also the Cold War and being of that first post-nuclear bomb generation had a crucial effect on Carroll’s psychology and subsequent behavior. Of course all those nuances are totally lost by setting the movie in the present.
Also, Leonardo is all wrong as Carroll. Though he bares some resemblance facially, he’s way too baby-faced for the part. The key to Carroll’s hipster appeal was that he was mature WAY beyond his years. A fast-talking, sharp-talking classic New York street kid, with a gravitas far beyond his years. A man among boys. While Leonardo looks like he’s still in junior high school. And Carroll, physically, was long and severe and bony. And a natural athlete with the gait of a panther. A guy who instantly rivets one’s attention. Whereas Leonardo seems to fade into the background of every scene I’ve seen.
And — worst of all — Carroll was a city all-star at basketball, a flashy Pete Maravich type of player who could light it up for 30-plus points. And we’re talking New York City playground basketball. Some of the slickest, wildest ball in the world. And Carroll could run with the best of the brothers. He played against guys who later went on to be stars in the NBA. While Leonardo plays like some putz from the suburbs. You can see from the basketball scenes that Leonardo has no game. He’s slow and flat-footed and pedestrian. And I’m sure they had to work all sorts of editing tricks just to give him any semblance of an actual hooper.
But what I don’t understand. When You got a great book, a classic book. with scene after scene of incredible scenes. Why would you want to change ANYTHING? Or add ANYTHING?