POSTED May 10 2013

A contrarian’s Leonardo DiCaprio

DiCaprio gives good closeup, but this contrarian prefers his full-bodied performances

DiCaprio gives good closeup, but this contrarian prefers his full-bodied performances

Leonardo DiCaprio, 39, has been making films for 20 years. Many of them, especially TitanicInception and The Great Gatsby, are so effects-intensive that it’s easy to forget how fine an actor he can be.

I was surprised by how minimalist and effective his performance is in Gatsby, a film so maximalist that its digital embroideries seem embroidered. And while I feel that recommending seeing Gatsby for his acting is like steering you to Dunkin’ Donuts for the coffee, I am doing just that.

Many observers, including the wags as New York Magazine’s Vulture who catalogue DiCaprio’s top-six facial expressions, say that DiCaprio is an above-the-neck actor, shooting the works in closeups. What I like best about Gatsby are the full-body scenes where DiCaprio tries to carry himself with gentlemanly ease but projects the discomfort of  a  15-year-old roughneck at a cotillion.

There’s a lovely sequence where his Gatsby conspires to meet Daisy (Carey Mulligan) in the cottage of  Nick Carraway (Tobey Maguire), and has delivered to the approximate number of white orchids exported from Thailand in a given average year. The orchids are dazzling, but what I remember from the scene is Gatsby’s anxiety, his nervous exit to the rainy garden where he rings at the door, linen suit wet and crumpled, his Atlas-like shoulders crushed by the weight of his expectations.

Call me a contrarian, but I like DiCaprio best in longshot, the rebellious boy n the beach with his aunt (Diane Keaton) in Marvin’s Room, the impostor in a stolen pilot’s uniform striding confidently through the airport in Catch Me If You Can, the suburban man unmanned by his wife’s intensity and his own lack thereof in Revolutionary Road.

Your thoughts about DiCaprio? Gatsby?



  1. Gary says:

    THIS BOY’S LIFE. See that, and you see DiCaprio at his best. Better than him in GILBERT GRAPE (which was great), but seeing him seethe at the dinner table in THIS BOY’S LIFE, I knew he’d be a star.

  2. Talkcineman says:

    Didn’t like Leo very much. That full throttle explosion left me cold, as if it confirmed that he was only a boy all along. Pff-f-f-ft went the enigma…

    you can hear my review in full on wbgo 88.3 FM, NY, 7:30 PM, podcast after that at

  3. Debbie says:

    This Boy’s Life and Catch Me If You Can. He’s good as a marginal, ultimately vulnerable figure. Otherwise, I am NOT a fan.

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