The Basketball Diaries is not necessarily the best of the drug addiction films, of which there are many, but it remains a distinguished addition because of the leading actor. Leonardo DiCaprio had been working in Hollywood since the early 90s, first as a guest star on television and eventually in supporting roles with actors like Robert DiNiro and Johnny Depp in This Boy’s Life and What’s Eating Gilbert Grape?, but The Basketball Diaries was his first starring role. If there was no The Basketball Diaries, DiCaprio likely would not have been chosen for Romeo & Juliet the following year, which would mean that he definitely would not have been in Titanic.
The film is based on the writings of recovered drug addict, Jim Carroll, who gives a harrowing appearance in one of the film’s scenes of drug use. The film begins like many drug films, with fun recreational use alongside good friends. Among these friends is an early performance by Mark Wahlberg, one which did just as much good for his career as it did DiCaprio. Carroll was a promising basketball player on a winning team at a private school his mother (Lorraine Bracco) worked hard to afford, but he ends up as a homeless junkie on the streets of
. New York
The Blu-ray includes interviews with the cast and director Scott Kalvert, as well as an interview and poetry reading from the real Jim Carroll. The high definition presentation is certainly clean and crisp looking, but this was something of a low budget film and doesn’t have visuals that are likely to impress.