Monday, May 20, 2013

The not so great Leonardo Di Caprio becomes great once again

Such an impressive biography,so many smartly chosen roles,so many great directors on his path,so much luck,incredible wisdom and perseverance.....and yet I wish he stopped doing films after "Catch me if You can".

I loved Di Caprio when he was a child.His looks,his spunk,the fierce childish energy,constant rebellion and loads of rough talent were impressive.His debut with Robert De Niro in "This boy's life" was brave and strong,his extremely childish appearance suited the role and he was poignant.It is very encouraging to see a young actor who seems at ease in such a serious cast.

Di Caprio continued daringly,with "What's eating Gilbert Grape", his absolute best role ever.
He was a force of nature in his early years, his still childish looks in complete opposition with his courage,he lived and breathed his roles and the audience believed him completely,enraptured by this prodigy.He never halted,he was never shy of his famous partners.He broke your hearth and made you laugh and there was never a moment of doubt that yes,he was that boy,Arnie Grape.A great talent was born and it just kept getting better.

"The quick and the dead" brought a somehow different actor. Bold,gritty,seductive, funny and once again he was at ease with serious stars like Gene Hackman and Sharon Stone.And "The Basketball diaries",another brilliant depiction of young troubled hero,masterful.This was Di Caprio in his early twenties,when his extremely boyish looks suited the characters he played,when he was still a young boy who played young boys.

I didn't like him in "Total eclipse", his portrayal of Rimbaud was a total miss since Di Caprio had none of the decadence and perversion essential for Rimbaud but since he was excellent in "Marvin's room" and fantastic in "Romeo + Juliet" I quickly forgot it.Once again,this kid was thrown among serious professionals in "Marvin's room" and once again he thrived, repeating all the qualities that made him great in his previous work.

"Romeo+Juliet" was his first collaboration with controversial Australian genius Baz Luhrman.It is a sumptuous movie,an exaggerated amusement park full of secret pleasures and the first glimpse of all great skills Luhrman has. Music,costumes,camera,set design ,all magnificent but never overwhelming the actors.It was a love story, pure and simple and Di Caprio and Claire Danes found each other in this brave movie.They were sincere and powerful and their emotions raw and pure.

And then came the world wide fame,the one and only "Titanic". Nothing would ever be the same again for Di Caprio,in best and worst sense.He became a megastar and he bore the burden well.He was decent in the movie even though he and Kate Winslet were,and remain, a really gauche couple.Jack Dawson was a good role for him,he was funny and vivacious and  seemed unfazed by the grandiosity of the project.

He continued with a few very good roles.I loved "Celebrity" and he was excellent in "The beach".Those were still the roles that suited him best,young rebel,experimenting with adult life,risking a lot, never lacking the audacity.

But the moment he was supposed to play adult men,something went very wrong."Gangs of New York" was en epic disaster and the only comfort for the Di Caprio could be the fact that a genius like Daniel Day Lewis was his partner in shame.

The last Di Caprio role I liked was "Catch me if you can",an amusing comedy where he used his spunk once again.From there on,everything was just a a variation on the theme:

- a wunderkind, growing up painfully,trying to find his place under the sun,coping unsuccessfully with adult characters

There were some excellent movies,there were some glimpses of what he could be if he only grew up but never again did Di Caprio manage to bring back the pure talent and force he showed in his first movies.

You simply couldn't believe him, he was a  tabula rasa,an empty canvas without motivation,passion,appeal or strength.We expected a lot maybe but rightfully so, he was brilliant in some of his early movies so we just waited patiently for him to finally come back.There were glimpses of possibilities,like "Departed" or brushes with his former self,like "Django Unchained", to keep us alert.

One couldn't but admire his flair for good roles,his tenacity and perseverance but the magic was gone.He was just a good looking aging Peter Pan,nothing more.It's a pity but it's a fact.In spite of his rich and admirable biography,he never again touched the sky he held in the palm of his hand when he started.And since he was so smart and cautious in choosing his roles,he should have known that something was missing from each and every  interpretation he gave his audiences.

His looks are definitely a problem since he still looks like a child,but it's far more than that.And the sublimation of all his failures arrived in "The great Gatsby".

Once again,he worked with Luhrmann.But unlike before,this time Luhrmann simply sank his complete cast in the opulence of effects,tricks,beauty and fantasy of his movie.They exist merely as puppets of this cruel master,without a chance to do anything but serve as decoration,tableaux vivants. And among them Di Caprio is by far the worst.Gatsby is a wonderful role but better men have already failed where Di Caprio wanted to shine.Redford had the ideal looks but his Gatsby was simply Redford all over again,not Gatsby.

And Di Caprio took the worst approach,his Gatsby is also Redford but without the looks.He took many of Redford's tics,he moves like a puppet,he has no passion,no sexual appeal or emotional substance,nothing.Of course,he is undermined by artificiality Luhrmann expected from his actors but so was Carey Mulligan and yet she gave a glimpse of humanity while Di Caprio was simply grotesque.It was sad to watch him dissolve but maybe it was all for good.

Maybe finally he will discover what is wrong and have a serious long talk with his former self. Maybe he will take a break and come back as a man who feels once again  right in his skin,maybe we will benefit from a new and improved Leonardo Di Caprio.

Because it can hardly get any worse than Gatsby.

And I can't be happier to say that he is back,with a vengeance.

In that brilliant scary epic that is "The Wolf of Wall street", Di Caprio has finally gone back to his source,he took a big gulp from the magical fountain of his original talent and took us all on an unforgettable ride.

His Jordan Belfort will remain one of the best performances ever seen in the movies,the idiotic addict who managed  to con all,the psychotic product of the specific moment in human history.

He has everything,the brute force,the skill, the magic,the audacity,the discipline,the magnificent span of that devastating talent he showed us when he was just a boy.

He is genuine and disgusting,he is a genius and a retard,and there is not a moment of respite from the human disaster called Jordan Belfort.

The unbelievable becomes believable with Di Caprio's magic and there is nothing left but to admire his brilliance.He has proven to all of us who doubted that he is still that same sparkling boy from Gilbert Grape,that he can still,when given the right role,create miracles.

The questions were rised about the morality of such a tale.In my mind,there is no doubt about the depths of sordidness of the Belfort's character,not a single moment when I didn't think how did that ridiculous disgusting criminal managed to pull it off.
Nothing in the movie suggested that the director or any of the creators wanted to glorify those despicable idiots.They were simply put in front of us,and the frenzy,extravagance and obscenity of it all is unfortunately very real.

In the sublimation of excess,Di Caprio never lost his balance,he managed to give us all the hysterical eccentricities of Belfort's character without becoming a caricature.

As absurdly as this may sound,he was balanced even in the most extravagant actions,he was calculated but still passionate and even when he let go completely, he stayed in control.

It was a very difficult role,perfect but difficult.There was the trap of covering the lack of conviction with noise and effects but he didn't fall into it.He stayed focused,he stayed precise and most admiringly,he was a perfect partner for all the amazing actors who worked with him.

It was the role of his life,his "Citizen Cocaine",as the journalist Rachel Syme smartly wrote.

Once again,I have seen and re-confirmed my opinion of the greatness of acting talent.Even when it gets lost for many years,the pure talent is always capable of re-inventing itself,of shining once again so brightly that, for a moment, it just hurts to look.


  1. So, I'm stumbling around your blog, Channing Tatum, brought me here. Not personally, of course.

    You're right, Leo can't grow up and his roles are suffering for it. I will say, I caught a glimpse of the potential in the man he could be during The Departed, but I haven't seen it since.

    1. Thank You for visiting,yes, The Departed was the good role among many questionable choices but I honestly don't see the right direction for Leo.Hope I'm wrong.But please check Jack Raynor in "What Richard did",similar type as young Leo,brilliant potential.

  2. He needs to stop taking so many roles and live life. He's excellent at playing a more eccentric character, such as Hughes, and was easily the most visceral, compelling thing in Django Unchained. Yet ask him to play straight - i.e The Departed, and he's not believable. His ability to produce angst and anger is predictable, and generally lacks the subtlety of a Brando, unable to nuance and modulate a performance. Essentially, he cannot play real. But he's incredibly compelling and creative in Django - what gives?