Jim Carroll (DiCaprio) plays basketball for his NY Catholic boys school, sniffs cleaning fluid with pals Mickey (Wahlberg) and Pedro (Madio), and writes about his life in an exercise book he carries in his back pocket. When he gets into heroin, he still keeps up the diary, transcribing the dirt in his life to eloquent hipster prose. Half-heartedly updated from the late '60s, Kalvert's adaptation faithfully tracks Carroll's descent into the realms of addiction, but fails to shed much light on the impulses which take him there. Like most drug movies, it fails to translate the highs to the screen, but dwells long and hard on the lows. Carroll's book was distinguished by the language, closer to Hubert Selby than Adrian Mole. We get snatches of this in voice-over, but not enough to make it integral to the film, which twists the material into just another cautionary tale with homophobic underpinnings. The angel-faced DiCaprio is a gifted actor, but he lacks the authority and physical presence to keep us with him.
The Basketball Diaries
Cast and crew