Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Could There Be a Better Beach Read??!!

I started taking a book to the gym. I told myself that the only time I could read this book would be there, in hopes that it would motivate me not only to go, but to do the amount of cardio I need to, since it's my least favorite part of the whole gym experience.

It worked, sort of.

My first book was Kyra Davis's Lust, Loathing and a Little Lip Gloss, which I highly recommend. I posted something here about that one.

My latest gym read was Alex Garland's debut, The Beach. I really like the movie. In fact, I really like Alex Garland, when he works with Danny Boyle, which he has thus far. Next year the film version of Kazuo Ishiguro's Never Let Me Go is slated for release and Garland wrote the screenplay. We'll see if he's still got the magic.

The book, as I said, Garland's debut, was released in 1996 and the film was released in 2000. In the book. Richard has decided to take some time off from regular life and tool around Asia. He's made his way to Thailand where a fellow hostel-mate tells him a tale about a beach, a paradise kept secret from the rest of the world. The following morning, the man has committed suicide, but not before entrusting a map to this beach in Richard's care. Richard invites Etienne and Fran├žoise, two travelers from France, to find the beach with him. They set off for paradise, but Richard has made a mistake. He told someone about the beach. The three arrive and find that it's everything, and more, than the ever dreamed it could be. A small community has flourished on the island and they are pretty much welcomed with open arms. Then it all goes to hell. The two Americans Richard passed the map to have arrived on a neighboring island and Rich is ordered to keep watch and ensure that their island remains a secret. Richard's world, and his mind, begin to crumble and paradise is about to come to an end.

The book does differ slightly from the film, if you've seen it. First, leave it to FOX to insist that the lead has to be American. Not a big deal except that it meant changing most of the cultural references since Richard is English. They also removed a character, something I really don't think was necessary, and played up the romance between Richard and Fran├žoise, as though we can't watch a movie without that aspect. I dunno.

The Beach, the film, is a bit of a controversy because up until that point, Ewan MacGregor was Boyle's leading man. I heard the production company wanted a more bankable lead and insisted on Leo as Richard. It's fine, especially now after the Leo madness that hit in my teens has cooled down (it wasn't that I didn't like him, just that I didn't like him being shoved down my throat).

Apparently the bigger controversy for the film was the landscaping done to the beach in question to make it fit the film. Thai police also had some complaints about their depiction in the film. Ah well.

This is, in my opinion, a gritty and beautiful tale of adventure. Garland's descriptive passages make you feel as though you are right there on the beach with Richard and his friends. Plus, the magical setting makes it all that much more shocking when things start to fall apart.

I highly recommend the book and the movie. I think they're both great on their own and I think Boyle did a fantastic job capturing Garland's tale on film.

There are, of course, deeper messages in the book. Rich's generation is a post-Vietnam one, and doesn't everyone feel some sort of disconnect with the world around them? The island is a place where they all have a purpose, they all have a sense of belonging and importance, something that young adults really strive for and battle with, I think. Ah well, you get what you get out of a book. I enjoyed this one and let's leave it at that.

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