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Wednesday
Apr162014

DiCaprio + Iñárritu = ???

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.

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Reader Comments (21)

Has Leo ever done a romantic comedy?
He is always in such serious stuff! :/

April 16, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterDavid

I never understood the turning on Kate that happened post THE READER, and assuming that this is what happens with Leo I won't understand that either. Granted, Kate is a superior performer to Leo but I never bought into the "Kate wanting an Oscar so badly" claims in as much as it influenced her role choices. Sure, on the campaign trail she seemed happy to win and excited to deliver speeches (the nerve of actors being happy to win awards, but that's an entire other issue on hypocrisy of audiences wanting winners of awards to seem aloof and above it). I mean, from 2004 to 2008 Kate was in ten movies, half of which hardly seem to be legitimate "prestige" pictures.

To some extent I understand the displeasure with Leo, like Kate ostensibly, not doing lighter, more leisurely fare but I don't think that's in any way tied to a rousing hellbent plot on Oscar glory, or bust. Leo acts consistently but he's not a prolific actor who has four films coming out a year, so I see his choices more as a desire to focus his efforts on one "type" of film (A list directors if you will) than make his one film per year be something necessarily looser.

Which is, of course, a matter of preference. Sure, I'd like to see him do something lighter, sure, but I'm always nonplussed when it rankles so many that he doesn't. I don't think any of his last three films falls expressly under the furrowed browed moniker, at least not completely. (And, then, considering what the alternative could be, I'll take his insistence on serious things over the opposite.)

April 16, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterAndrew K.

It makes me think of those perhaps allegorical stories about Daniel Day Lewis, how he took a year off and learned how to be a cobbler (shoemaker). Maybe that's not so silly after all in terms of artistic regeneration.

Maybe it would freshen DiCaprio's work up if he was removed from his insulated life as a rich guy, surrounded by yes men and models, and put in some remote village somewhere to be a cobbler. I would also suggest he take care of about 4 children, making them supper, doing their laundry, making sure they are okay (without a woman's help). Call it the Sullivan's Travels method of refocusing.

April 16, 2014 | Unregistered Commenteradri

Thank you for writing this, since I just saw that Tapley at In Contention (and probably 99% of the rest of the internet) drooled all over DiCaprio and his endless line of prestige projects.

And since you mentioned Winslet - I watched Labor Day yesterday and it really is as dubious as the critics I read have said it is. I can't believe Jason Reitman actually made Josh Brolin say, "Sometimes, the best tool is attached to your own body," during the erotic pie-making session with Kate. It has to be one of the best unintentionally hilarious lines ever.

April 16, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJan

I wasn't enamored with his wolf performance as others. There was no subtext and he would go in and out of a LI accent which was easy for me to notice cause I have a very thick one myself. Just listen how he says water. And then there is the first speech in the film that really comes off as flat. It tries to be Wall Street but the second in the film is much better cause I feel some subtext in his acting. Though I am a very big fan of the movie itself and I like Dicaprio's performance but he is not very good with his voice. He should just stick to his own instead of drawing attention to himself.

April 16, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJosh

AHHH, I have mixed feelings about this post.

'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.'

As their collaboration gave us his performance in The Departed and in the Wolf of Wall Street. It's A+ as far as I'm concerned even if we did have to suffer through the god-awful 'The Gangs of New York Performance of his.

And if his chase for an Oscar, continues to give us such great performance as The Wolf of Wall Street, Shutter Island, Revolutionary Road - that is okay by me because those are not performances to scoff at, even if the films around them can be trying.

With that said, I completely agree that he should do more 'lighter' performance as he was so great in Catch me if You Can and Wolf. And I am in 100% agreement that Inarritu +DiCaprio may not be the smartest idea.

April 16, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterAnonny

What's the problem in voicing that you want an Oscar? Is it b/c it's a WOMAN who did that? I mean, yes, be careful for what you wish for Kate Winslet. You won your precious Oscar, but it was for the shitty "The Reader," and you haven't been nominated since. (You also named your newborn BEAR and married a guy named Ned Rock'n'Roll, but that's for another discussion.) I feel like if Leo bluntly said that he wanted an Oscar badly, the stars would finally align for him. Let's hope it's for a worthy performance. I would have been perfectly fine with him winning this year for "The Wolf of Wall Street." And I've loved all of Innaritu's films, soooo, whatever, bring on this new collaboration with DiCaprio, plz.

April 16, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterLinc

I agree with everything except for one point - I think he was better in "The Aviator" than he was in "The Departed." Are you not a fan of that performance?

April 16, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterTyler

More than the roles themselves, that "looseness" you mentioned is what's missing more often than not. It makes the performances (which aren't ever bad, and usually quite good) come across as overly mannered, and you just see Leo "ACTING!" vs. watching a character go through whatever they're dealing with. Look at The Departed. They say Nicholson was improving like a madman, and that probably helped DiCaprio more than can be stated. I can just remember seeing Django Unchained and being so thoroughly disappointed in that performance. How do you take that character and not turn it up to an 11!? This could've been his Daniel Plainview moment, but Candy ends up oddly being a bit of a bore. Sam Jackson didn't help things (easily shoplifting the movie, by actually understanding how ridiculous it is), but this is a prime example of the issues I think many have with Leo right about now.

April 16, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterVal

I think there's something to that sexism comment post. I don't think that DiCaprio would suffer the same kind of backlash for actively wanting and pursuing an Oscar the way that Winslet did post-"The Reader." Different box office draws, I realize, and certainly different calibre of films/roles, but at the heart of the matter, it's the differing expectations we demand of our actresses versus our leading men. DiCaprio can go on working with Scorsese until one of them croaks, but Winslet? She has a shelf life, and the clock's ticking, folks. Sad reality of things. I personally find it refreshing when an actor isn't coy about wanting an Oscar. None of that PC "it's an honor just to be nominated" crap for me. I'm also excited about this new project "The Revenant." Sounds like much for DiCaprio to bite his teeth into (no pun intended). Get that Oscar win you should have won this year! No "The Color of Money" win for you, sir!

April 16, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterIo

DiCaprio bores me. Even when he's trying to play it light like in Django Unchained, Great Gatsby and Wolf of Wall Street, you can see all the ticks and all the sweat behind it. It's exhausting.

He is an amazing actor (so is Kate, of course) but they both need to be less stuck-up and remove the stick up their asses.

Kate needs to pair up with Emma Thompson/Meryl Streep/Jennifer Lawrence in a buddie comedy à la The Heat

And Leo needs to pair up with, I don't know, Amy Adams or Anne Hathway and do a highbrow romantic comedy like Enough Said or the Before Trilogy. Something prestige-y but loose.

April 16, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJay

May I suggest they both work with Almodovar? Ou Wong Kar Wai? That'll do it as well.

As for Innaritu, I hope Birdman is proof that he is inspired by something else other than misery and depression.

April 16, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJay

Anonny, ITA about Revolutionary Road--great performance by Leo and he should have gotten a nom for that.

Val, so true about his role in Django. I didn't understand all the critical raves for his work there--to me, it didn't really work. Too muted, cautious.

April 16, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterbrookesboy

He's never done a big franchise, Marvel Studios has a good track record and I think he could probably make a really good Doctor Strange right now.

April 16, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterVolvagia

Not to make this about Kate, but I can't help myself. Of course she won for a lesser performance, but certainly not a bad one. It would be like if Meryl hadn't won for Sofie's Choice and then won for any of her other nominations. Everything after that was destined to be lesser, even if still amazing. Just like I can't ever imagine Streep topping that performance, I can't see how Winslet will ever top Eternal Sunshine. That performance was truly inspired.

People seem on board now, but back in 2004 or whatever, the only person I saw champion Kate was, oddly enough, Jake G on the red carpet when someone asked him who he thought should win Best Actress. But then again, I didn't read blogs back then. Maybe you saw through the one dimensional, feel sorry for me, work of Swank.

In the same regard, I can't see Leo ever topping Gilbert Grape, though since he and Depp would both probably like an Oscar, maybe a gay "Who's Topping Gilbert Grape" movie is in order.

As for why Kate hasn't been nominated, I don't think it's backlash, but simply that other's were better. Carnage, Labor Day, Divergent . . . Solid work, but I'd describe it as overly confident.

I think winning may have upset the balance in her head just a bit. Her earlier work had a vulnerability to it, a constant hunger to prove itself. I haven't seen that since. It's been more calculated, studies, and less risky. My hope is that her confidence is shaken a little after not getting better reviews than Foster's atrocious performance in Carnage, getting temperate reviews for Labor Day, and even bad reviews for Divergent(Though I read the book, and it is actually a spot on performance of that character).

Maybe it's just because I picture Kate Winslet in every book I read, but more than anyone else she always seems to nail the beloved characters I read about. Knightly is good, but that's now how I saw Celia or Anna. Her Ruth in Never Let Me Go was perfect. Anyway, I read a lot, so I have plenty of other thoughts on this topic.

April 16, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJeff

@Volvagia (and other comic book fans), the answer to every question is not another goddamn superhero movie/franchise. In fact, let's just assume it's NEVER that mmmk? Thanks.

April 16, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterAkash

I watched 21 Grams yesterday for the first time since I saw it in the cinema. While I can't say I enjoyed it (it's way too grim and does drag somewhat) boy are those some great performances from Naomi, Sean and Benicio as well as the wonderful Melissa Leo. If Innarittu can get a similarly raw performance out of Leo then they should both receive academy awards. Good luck to all involved I say.

April 16, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJoanne

Gotta join in to the points voicing the double standards to man and women. Just look at Anne Hathaway last year and compare her to Matthew McConaughey or Jared Leto this year. All three wanted it and were very clear about it (and personally I thought the men were much more obnoxious than Hathaway about it, but I accept that there's a lot of personal opinions involved), but only Hathaway ended up with the kind of hate that she felt the need to basically disappear for a year. Leo will be fine. He'll probably win for a lesser performance once he passes 50 and the fans would cheer.

I don't know if it's a comedy that Leo needs, as much as to get out of the studio movies and go for a true indie, the kind that has such a huge danger of failing miserably. The kind of indies he did in the beginning of his career and seems to run away from once he shot to Titanic fame. At this point of his career he will have to show them he's willing to take a real risk to get the statue before the overdueness factor weighs in. And no, a 100 million dollar budget Scorsese movie is not a real risk, not even when the material is The Wolf of Wall Street.

April 16, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterPitry

Leo's "oscar someday" is taken for granted--but really, why should it be? He gets his pick of projects because of star power, but he is woefully inconsistent and seldom brings much extra to the film. He's pleasant enough, but when I do watch his films, I can't help but wonder what a better actor would do with the material.
As for this film, about a tough 1820s frontiersman--boy, does this sound like miscasting!

April 16, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterRachele

A friend of mine recently went on a rant about Inarritu and his "prestige miserable-ism" and how overrated his is, even if to my ears at least that more hated is currently directed at his work than adulation. But what I find odd is he fawns over the work of Steve McQueen and I think these two filmmakers are quite alike, sharing similar strengths, weaknesses and overall tendencies.
Both work largely in an unvaried tone, one which is miles from levity with an affluence of portents; both revel in deliberately unromanticized depictions of humanity; both wring phenomenal raw performances from their actors; both have been met with rapturous praise from their debuts to their big breakthrough at the Oscars (and a start of a backlash) on their third film. Also, on a personal note, their collective filmography (with the exception of "12 Years a Slave") left me somewhat cool, appreciating particular aspects while finding the mechanics of their style too conspicuous to be satisfying as a whole work.
Not to say they are identical filmmakers: Inarritu is very much focused on a purposely jumbled and/or hyper-linked editing style with grimy visuals while McQueen's interest is in baroque and painterly cinematography with gently glacial editing approach.
Nor is it my contention that someone can't prefer or even greatly prefer one over the other but I think it's odd to disparage Inarritu specifically for reaching renown for being just too so damn gloomy while at the same time swoon for the prestigious misery of another and cite his dolor as audacious and singular.
P.S.
My friend admits that he personally overpraised "21 Grams" and "Amores Perros" and so it's possible that his vitriol may stem from a need to compensate for that.

April 16, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJJsDiner

These posts are so silly. Nathaniel, you need to get your head out of your arse about Leo. Okay, he used to be a big fave of yours when he was skinny, younger, cuter, and looser. But everybody changes. And grows up if they are lucky enough. Can't be Peter Pan forever. As for the posters who think he wasn't over the top in Django...all I can say is "UHHH, what the hell are you talking about?" Didn't think the movie was that great myself, but Leo was def over the top there, for better or worse. Anyway, for whatever reason, he's some kind of controversial wonder kind. I think he's taken more chances than most actors in a lifetime, by far. Whether he's succeeded or not is a moot point. He's willing to take a risk and not settle for some dopey HOLLYWOOD comedy/romance/shit fest like so many others. For that he should get a little more respect. Someday I'm thinking he'll finally put it together and come out with something that will surprise the crap out of most people....though not everyone obviously. As for Inarritu, I'm willing to put up with his passionately depressive pieces because they always have a little hope at the end, and not everyone is capable of appreciating that, I'll admit. He also is quite capable of wringing some truly amazing performances out of his actors that are, if nothing else, memorable. Give him that at least!

May 13, 2014 | Unregistered Commentersherry kindle

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