Esquire Magazine - November 1999
Looking to find a balance between the young performer whose uncanny intelligence and grace took critics by surprise in This Boy's Life and What's Eating Gilbert Grape and the planetary phenomenon known simply as "Leo," let's just say that Leonardo DiCaprio at twenty-four is by mile the most gifted actor ever to inflame the imaginations of millions of adolescent girls. Next, let's note that his fame has made it a faux pas to talk about how talented he is, at least in adult company. But if Beatlemania taught this waning century anything, it's that the frenzies of thirteen -year olds aren't necessarily trivial.
DiCaprio's I-dare-you-to-think-this-is-me impersonation of a cocky young star in Woody Allen's otherwise turgid Celebrity - a performance eerily less self-parodying than coolly observed, and also serving notice that he was a grown-up - was bracing proof of his post -Titanic clearheadedness. Since then, however, he's been absent from the screen, presumably hoping the hubbub will wane but instead turning his next project, The Beach, into an even bigger deal. He's going to have to be terrific in it for the movie not to come off as a letdown.
Yet terrific is just what he's usually been, uncommonly free of narcissistic mannerisms even in movies that hyperbolize his presence: His Romeo was more plausible than Brando's Marc Antony, his alienated teens in This Boy's Life and Marvin's Room were more detailed and perceptive than James Dean's histrionics, and his cunningly contrived variations on high spirits were almost as helpful to Titanic as Gable's nonchalance was to Gone With The Wind.
None of his movies up to now have begun to tap the slyness, ambiguity, and potential perversity in his charisma, so you'd love to see him enlist the audience's complicity in a villainous role. Whatever direction he goes in, expect him to surprise you.
Many thanks to Treggy !
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