If there was ever a film that could turn a person off drugs than this would be it.
Bleak, depressing independent film making with an incredible performance by Leonardo Di Caprio and great support by Mark Wahlberg, Bruno Kirby and Lorraine Bracco, The Basketball Diaries shows that, if anything, it is the company you keep that will eventually lead to your downfall.
Based on a true story Leonardo Di Caprio stars as Jim Carroll, a promising high school basketball prospect who hangs out all day with his friends getting high any way he can, usually skipping classes and - when he was there - usually on the other of the paddle ministered by the strict Catholic priests that run his school.
His only passions in life are basketball and his poetry, but as he and his friends continue to experiment with various drugs all of his dreams are thrown out of the window, as the nightmare of drug addiction takes a hold.
The Basketball Diaries depicts in vivid detail the lengths gone to feed his addiction, starting from petty theft to prostitution, and is not airbrushed in your standard Hollywood-come-MTV ultra-chic visuals. It shows drug abuse a dirty, stupid habit, the fatal and often humiliating consequences far outweighing the "coolness" that many still associate with drugs.
Carroll cannot find any solace from the Catholic Church, with one particular instance where he asks for redemption during confession, only to be given a slap on the wrist, a subtle yet powerful scene.
However, there are those who try to help. Bobby (Michael Imperioli) is Jim's best friend who is dying of leukemia and encourages Jim's talent for poetry, while Reggie (Ernie Hudson) is a friend who helps Jim detox but to no avail.
The Basketball Diaries shows the death of innocence in harrowing detail yet the birth of the artist is passed over.
In a brief scene the viewer is told that while incarcerated Jim overcame his addiction and found his calling in life. Yet this part of the movie is over in mere seconds, not showing how Jim kicked his habit in a place where (according to the script) it is much easier to score heroin when compared to the outside.
It is a very patchy conclusion to a good but not great film.