Welcome to a new, snobby edition here at DodgingBarrels called, “You Know What’s Overrated?/You Know What’s Underrated?” I mean…it’s just Nate and Dan spewing their opinions on what we should stop and start giving praise to in the world of film, TV, and video games. But we’ve got a streamlined methodology now!
What’s Overrated: Leonardo DiCaprio
Why he’s overrated in 200 words or less: He continually takes roles that are different in subject matter (kind of), but approaches them with the same, one-note “look how willing I am to be EXTREME in my craft” sort of practice. He always yells, and he yells the same way. Usually in a shitty accent. His cutting his hand in Django Unchained or eating a live fish in The Revenant or having a cerebral palsy like high in The Wolf of Wall Street are NOT, in and of themselves, reflective of good acting. I don’t doubt the dude’s commitment to revert to physical hardships that his roles call for, but I don’t know…it reeks of desperation to help mask his limited range that prevents a fully formed, believable character to exist on screen. When I see some of Leo’s most gifted, A-List contemporaries like Cate Blanchett (this woman’s performance in Blue Jasmine is one of the greatest I’ve ever seen), Tom Hardy, Viola Davis, Oscar Issac, etc., I never see them, I almost always see their characters. When I watch a Leo film, I always just see Leo.
Examples: The screaming. The goddamn screaming. All the time. Every movie. The dude only knows how to express rage through yelling and distorting his pretty face as much as fucking possible. I’ve never seen Leo pull off subdued, or quiet intensity, and I don’t think he pulls off being a tough guy terribly well either. Look at this shit:
That first clip of him from Django where he yells, “WHERE IS MY BEAUTIFUL SISTER!!!” makes me cringe. In the context of that scene, it comes out of fucking nowhere and just seems, I don’t know, weird? Like, why? Why have the character act that way? Dude is completely unprovoked on a passive bit of dialogue that doesn’t push any part of the story forward. Is it intended to just be a nuanced tidbit of development of the man’s personality? I don’t know, I guess? Is Tarantino to blame for writing the scene that way? Even if he was, the yelling is just distracting, and that’s the word for me that is most detrimental for an actor, distracting. The moment I become so consciously aware that someone is acting is the moment that actor distracts me from the film. When a plot or a performance or direction is convincing and believable, that’s when I’m able to abandon my analytical approach to critiquing film (masked term for being a high-brow shitbag). When I’m able to let go of the analytics and feel immersed and moved by a movie, that’s when people have done their job well. Leo doesn’t do this for me. Leo scratches and crawls like mad but he hardly ever makes me feel lost in his character.
Conclusion: I’m not going to be such a whiny, backseat, old-man talentless fuck as to not give the guy SOME kind of recognition. He’s fine. He’s a totally serviceable actor who I don’t find to be awfully memorable one way or the other. He was a good kid actor (This Boy’s Life, What’s Eating Gilbert Grape). But when people start to suggest that Leo’s body of work is justifiably comparable to that of a De Niro…just stop. Stop doing that. Robert De Niro has made plenty of shit films and seems to be mailing in all his performances since 2000, but he played Jake LaMotta, and Travis Bickle, and Rupert Pupkin, and Jimmy Conway, and Max Cady, and Mike Vronsky, and I can just keep going. Leo has found his niche as the leading man for 21st century Scorsese (which consists of hits and misses) and end of the year films that were made with the sole intention of winning an Academy Award or Golden Globe because it knows exactly what Hollywood wants to recognize (Revolutionary Road, The Revenant, J. Edgar). You should feel convinced by my position since I’m such an accomplished actor in my own right! I’ve managed to make Nate think I actually like him and have suffered through great lengths to make him think as much. It’s a performance for the ages, let me tell you! I’m looking at you, Leo.