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In Defense of Leonardo DiCaprio

July 21, 2010

Another indication that Newsweek writer Ramin Setoodeh is completely out of touch (he wrote the now infamous “anti-gay” article “Straight Talk”) is his completely lopsided piece regarding Leonardo Dicaprio’s career. In “What’s Eating Leonardo DiCaprio”, Setoodeh praises DiCaprio as one of the finest actors of his generation yet wonders, “why is he always so pissed off in the movies?” He basically claims that in an attempt to steer away from his teen heartthrob past, DiCaprio has unfortunately embraced what Setoodeh calls, “movies only for people on antidepressants.” As a fan of DiCaprio’s, I have to whole heartedly disagree with this entire piece. Setoodeh remarks that DiCaprio, “has swung so far in the other direction that he has alienated the female fans who made him a star.” As a female fan I have to point out that his departure from teen hunk is exactly why I am a fan. Leo is simply a fantastic actor. I didn’t care much for The Aviator, but his performance in it was outstanding and pushed him to discover his raw talent.

Looking back on Leo’s major hunkified 90s roles, I was never that into him as a teen anyway. I liked Romeo and Juliet more for Baz Luhrman’s direction and design more so than Leo’s blonde locks and armor. Titanic was enjoyed because I’m a nerd for big, epic period pieces and there was awesome Irish music, not for the predictable love story. Back then he was too scrawny, too boyish, too blonde (I much prefer dark, scruffy dudes like the FH). I also didn’t believe for a second that skinny, 90 pound Jack could rescue the voluptuous Rose from falling overboard anyways. Since Titanic, DiCaprio has definitely grown up, in looks and in role choice. Setoodeh thinks that DiCaprio, “…would help himself tremendously if he lightened up…” I feel like the author has an incorrect perception of what DiCaprio initially set out to do. Looking back, his younger years weren’t completely filled with light hearted, heartthrob pieces to begin with. Has Setoodeh seen What’s Eating Gilbert Grape? Has he seen the freaking Basketball Diaries???

R&J, Titanic, and The Beach (a blatant attempt to capitalize on teen girls wallets) thrust him into the heartthrob stereotype that, I think, DiCaprio wanted to avoid in the first place and has been ever since. It has been said that Heath Ledger, also uncomfortable with such a position, was attempting to break free from the hunk type casting as well, most notable with The Dark Knight. Toby Maguire and Jake Gyllenhaal are other examples of what Setoodeh calls, “some kind of mega-scowling contest.” I’d like to point out that Maguire did The Ice Storm and The Cider House Rules before he became Spiderman, and Gyllenhaal was Donnie Darko before he was The Prince of Persia (so aren’t they arguably going in the opposite direction?)  Setoodeh also notes that more recent young actors like Robert Pattinson and Zac Efron are following in DiCaprio’s footsteps, taking on more serious roles very soon after their initial breakout heartthrob films. To that I reply, “Well shouldn’t they?” Shouldn’t they prove that they can do more in this business than just smile and look good? Shouldn’t any actor, male or female strive to be more than just a pretty face?

Granted, Leo’s roles since the start of the millennium have included serious fare; The Departed and Revolutionary Road pop immediately into my head. Don’t get me wrong, I do love light hearted movies. But let the comedic actors (or actors who can’t really act) handle those. Letting DiCaprio’s talent go to waste in something that doesn’t push him would be a cinematic shame. Thankfully, if Setoodeh prefers fluff over substance, he’ll find his new job at People suits him much better.

One Comment leave one →
  1. July 21, 2010 3:07 pm

    I really think that his work in the Basketball Diaries might have been the best work he has ever done. He was absolutely outstanding in that role.

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