(…And For Which He Probably Should Have Already Won an Oscar!)
A couple of days ago I was talking to my sister-in-law, who’s just recently been to see The Revenant, about Leonardo DiCaprio’s Oscar nomination and she mentioned that the first film she really saw him in was Titanic. When I was a kid, my friends and I were huge fans of Mr. DiCaprio and being the super nerds we were (shout-out to Katy. C., queen of all us film nerds) we basically made it our mission to watch everything he’d ever been in. Anyway, it occurred to me that, since Leo’s mainstream appeal didn’t kick off until he boarded that doomed ship, there are probably quite a few people who are unaware of his back catalogue, so I thought I’d share some suggestions of DiCaprio movies that you really should see:
Leo stars as Arther Rimbaud, a French poet who lived in the late 1800’s, and looks at his relationship with fellow poet Paul Verlaine. The whole storyline is incredibly intense and despite the fact that DiCaprio was just 19 when it was filmed, he portrays the complex character incredibly well, steering through the plot with a maturity beyond his years. Period dramas are often difficult to get right, especially when they’re biographical, but this film is spot-on.
This Boy’s Life
When an actor in their teens can hold up against a performance from Robert De Niro, you know they’re good, and that’s exactly what Leo does here. The film is a truly harrowing account of abuse, control and a less-than-charmed childhood which should probably only be watched when you’re in a fairly strong frame of mind, but it’s definitely one of this films which should be on everyone’s ‘must see’ list.
The Basketball Diaries
Yet another ‘gritty’ drama, The Basketball Diaries is based on the book of the same name, written by ‘jock-turned-junkie’ Jim Carroll. The film depicts Carroll’s descent from rising basketball star to heroin addict and should come with a WHOLE bunch of trigger warnings, including abuse, prostitution and death. It’s another film which isn’t exactly ‘light-hearted’, but Leo is testament to the fact that movies don’t always need a happy ending (even if I AM convinced that Jack could easily have fit on that door with Rose…)
What’s Eating Gilbert Grape
Despite the fact that Leo is technically only a ‘supporting role’ to Johnny Depp’s lead in What’s Eating Gilbert Grape, his portrayal of Gilbert’s developmentally delayed younger brother Arnie is as brilliant as it is heartbreaking as it is uncomfortable. Playing someone with a mental disability must be an absolute minefield; a balancing act of not being so over the top as to be hammy and insulting, but not being so subtle that you can’t tell that the character is supposed to have an impairment, but Leo manages it with startling ease, stealing the show from his older, more well-known co-stars.
Romeo + Juliet
Even if you aren’t a fan of Shakespeare, you NEED to watch this film. Baz Luhrmann is one of my all-time favourite directors for the simple fact that he makes everything he turns his hand to a work of beauty, and this film is no exception. Leo’s raw depiction of love-struck Romeo, juxtaposed against the modern backdrop of ‘Verona Beach’, is simply stunning and the fast-paced shooting and striking sets make you almost forget that everyone is speaking 16th century English. Dash Mihok, most recently of Ray Donovan fame, is another stand-out performance as Romeo’s right hand man Benvolio, while John Leguizamo kills it as Juliet’s cousin Tybalt.