‘The Basketball Diaries’ was a masterpiece brought to us by Jim Carrol, and it graphically retells his story of descent into drug addiction as a teenager in New York. The movie was somewhat of a breakthrough project for stars such as Eric Stoltz, Matt Dillon, and River Phoenix – who at the time didn’t even need a finished script to accept the part.
All of these, however, are just the background noise as we can see Leonardo DiCaprio play a brutal role – which is probably why the movie received so much acclaim. This is because there isn’t much of a story to the movie – atleast not the kind most would pay good money to watch.
The Basketball Diaries is more like a pastiche, a dreading descent into Dante’s Inferno and a montage of brutality as it provides a glimpse into a young addict’s soul. The movie starts with some basketball buddies. They can be seen breaking into bare-knuckled fights in the parking lot or breaking into their opponent’s locker room to snatch wallets or watches. But you know they won’t just stop there.
Leo gets his first taste of drugs and when he reaches the needle, and the movie just launches into overdrive. Critics of the movie believe this is quite intentional as a drug addict’s life is full of shaking, stealing, crying, and vomiting. What has been portrayed phenomenally in the movie is the complete lack of control the characters have on their lives due to their excessive use of drugs.
An example of this is when Jim is portrayed consistently wasting too much time and effort to obtain his visceral drugs because of an intense craving. Even his unsuccessful attempts at cutting down his drug use is portrayed beautifully as factors like expulsion from school, termination from the basketball team, and getting kicked out from his home get him back to square one. All of the potential diagnostics of the DSM-5 criteria are fulfilled by the character alongside some other facts.
Jim gets sent to prison for assault, alongside other charges, and this is where he begins his journey to going cold turkey. The guttural screams of dysphoria and pain during withdrawal are depicted alongside the perception that it is much easier for him to get drugs in prison than on the streets. What stops him though is the motivation from an older basketball buddy, who finds Jim overdosed and passed out in the snow. Finally, he finds his inner strength to quit drugs and to tell people about its consuming power.
The Basketball Diaries presents moviegoers with the gruesome reality of drug addiction, which is much more painful than the glorified versions presented in other movies. The real Jim also makes a cameo experience to beautifully illustrate what a junkie looks like as opposed to the newly addicted Leo DiCaprio.
Jim, a survivor of drug addiction, later died in New York in 2009. He will always be remembered as an acclaimed performer, novelist, musician, and poet. God Speed!