I am not, in any way according to the Internet, a Leonardo DiCaprio fan. Never mind that I saw him first and was proselytizing about his gift for at least ten years after seeing the double whammy of This Boy's Life and What's Eating Gilbert Grape in 1993. Alas, I have no proof of this fact as I was not writing for the internet at the time. But, it is true that I began to sour on him starting with Gangs of New York (2002) the first obvious sign that he was quite fallible indeed and that maybe he needed to be, you know, directed, rather than coddled by the auteurs he blesses with his unusually foolproof bankability. I may be the only person alive who thinks his relationship with Martin Scorsese, The Departed aside, has not been good for developing his once prodigious talent. But at the risk of angering his devout legion again, I feel confident in proposing that he is now in the exact place that his Titanic partner Kate Winslet was in the mid to late Aughts wherein she simply refused to do anything other than try to win statues; prestige piece after prestige piece after prestige piece. Movie stars need more variety than that in their filmography to stay sharp, if you ask me. She won, as many stars of her magnitude did, and so will Leo. And yet, as surely as Kate's fanbase turned on her for "wanting it too badly" and winning for a "lesser" performance, so will they turn on Leo whenever he wins which will undoubtedly be for a lesser performance because that's how 'overdue' Oscars work.
In the meantime he'll just keep trying to win one.
I've been saying for a long time that a light and breezy comedy (something like Catch Me If You Can) would go a long way towards relaxing him on the screen again and revitalizing his heavy and repetitive acting. And maybe it's churlish of me to assume that The Wolf of Wall Street which wasn't quite his best but was certainly his loosest performance since Catch Me... won't be the trigger for the same kind of rejuvenation. But a newly announced project is killing the dream that it might.
Honest question that isn't meant as snark: Is there any director currently working with a heavier hand than Alejandro González Iñárritu? His best film is Powder Keg (2001) and that's precisely because it's so freaking short at 8 minutes that it only has enough time to be sobering and impressive and exciting without overstaying its welcome and smothering the viewer dead in misery as Amores Perros, Babel, Biutiful and 21 Grams did. Otherwise his films are the epitome of the kind of portentously thematic "prestige" mediocrities that are jerry-rigged to be wildly overpraised by virtue of their importance. His next film, which Leo will lead, is The Revenant and it'sbased on Michael Punke's "The Revenant: A Novel of Revenge" which is about a fur-trapping frontiersman left for dead after a bear attack in 19th century Northern America. It's not the bear he wants revenge on but the party that abandoned him.
Maybe DiCaprio's natural tendency toward furrowed brow depression and Iñarritu's natural tendency towards furrowing our brows with depression will cancel each other out and they'll surprise us with a range of feeling in this grisly period drama? One can dream.