A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Lots of bad behavior on display.
Violence & Scariness
Includes infamous school shooting fantasy scene.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Multiple scenes involving prostitution.
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Very strong language.
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Lots, although there are definite consequences for use.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that this story is a gritty look a group of teenage friends as they succumb to drug addiction, and as such is probably only appropriate for the most emotionally mature teenagers. Early in the film, the friends are deeply affected by the untimely death (due to leukemia) of their pal Bobby. Obscene language is the norm rather than the exception as are scenes of violence, including muggings and robberies perpetrated by the main characters. Men routinely offer money to Carroll for sex, including his coach. While there are ultimately consequences for these behaviors, scenes depicting the highs of cocaine and heroin use do convey a sense of elation and excitement. One such drug-induced dream has the trenchcoat-clad protagonist shooting his classmates –- a scene much discussed in the wake of Columbine. The total effect of the film is shown to be the source of the real life Carroll's later success. Also, the presence of DiCaprio and Wahlberg make this film one likely to pique the interest of teens. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
Basketball Diaries is a kitchen sink melodrama. DiCaprio's performance is his among his best, pulling no punches while conveying the relentless thirst of a junkie. Aided by a strong supporting cast, including Mark Wahlberg as his closest junkie pal Mickey and Lorraine Bracco as his mother, DiCaprio is able to create empathy for a character that seems to lose all sense of morality very early on in the film.
While the young characters do lack moral compasses, the film itself does not. There are very clear consequences for the teens resulting from their poor decision-making. In some sense this makes the film a potent moral allegory for older teens, warning them of the dangers of drug abuse and crime. However, it can also come across as heavy-handed, and cynical teens may find the film a bit too much like a stern lecture to take the points seriously. DiCaprio's performance does lessen the chance of this, but at times, it also has the unintended effect of making the wretched life of a junkie seem almost attractive. After all, with his later reputation as a club-going womanizer in tow, Jim Carroll may just seem like an unlucky version of the actor himself.
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Our Editors Recommend
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