Warning: A minor 'Inception' SPOILER towards the end
I think I speak for a lot of film goers in saying that we all are impressed at the rise of your career and the integrity and maturity you have shown your film roles post-Titanic – a film which could have turned you into a completely different actor than the one you are today. In fact, it seemed as if over the past 13years both you and Kate Winslet chose the same path, avoiding trappings of Blockbusterism, youth idolatry, and for lack of a better word‘selling out’ , and converged again recently on Revolutionary Road , which unfortunately represents a sad career misstep which is one of the reasons why this article is being written.
Titanic and beyond, the calibre of filmmakers you have worked with is impressive: James Cameron, Woody Allen, Martin Scorsese, Steven Spielberg, Ridley Scott, and now Christopher Nolan. Clearly you are choosing filmmakers with a track record of greatness, but also with the exception of Mr. Nolan, filmmakers over the age of 60 and, arguably, past their prime.
Why not seek out Paul Thomas Anderson, Darren Aronofsky, the Coen Bros, Alexander Payne, Wes Anderson, hell, even Guy Ritchie or Judd Apatow.
But most importantly where’s your sense of humour?
Each of your post-Titanic roles, with the exception of Catch Me if You Can, and Celebrity (which was a cameo appearance anyways and thus doesn’t really count) have been rot with brooding emotional melodrama, tortured souls and dark journeys into madness and heartbreak. Let’s go through them:
The Beach – of course a famous debacle, a film both you and Danny Boyle have probably tried to forget since making it. That saying it looked like you were having fun, frolicking in the wondrously pristine Thai beaches. Sure it’s not a perfect film but there’s some exuberance and energy in your performance which we just don’t seen anymore.
Gangs of New York – As Amsterdam, the Irish immigrant seeking revenge against the enemies of his deceased and martyred father, though few could stand as tall as Daniel Day Lewis’ performance in this film, you hold your own as best you can, playing Amsterdam with a hint of Hamlet’s internalised self-doubt and hesitation. I like the film and I like you, but why so serious?
The Aviator – Sure, I know, it was a passion project for you, bringing it to Mr. Scorsese personally to direct. As Howard Hughes, the strange and eccentric madman/genius billionaire, you got all the right ticks and quirks of his obsessive personality down pat, but despite the film’s praise and your Oscar nomination, why so serious?
The Departed – Again, a very good film. Another Oscar nomination and perhaps your best performance of all these films. You inject in Billy Costigan a bubbling cauldron of tension and rage which, because of your situation as an undercover cop, you cannot express. This is all palpable in your performance specifically your sweaty face and twitchy hands. But again, we never see you crack a smile or make a joke.
Blood Diamond –Your Oscar nomination notwithstanding, it’s a bad movie. I’m sorry, it is. Under the blockhead direction of Edward Zwick the important political message of the heinous diamond trade in Africa got turned into an sup-par action movie. But a humourless action movie with a message, again, why so serious? If you’re going to make an action movie, however silly, I’d prefer National Treasure/Pirates of the Caribbean-style Jerry Bruckheimer vehicle.
Next up was the abominable Body of Lies, co-starring an actor also plagued with an inability to have a laugh or poke fun of himself, Russell Crowe. Lies seemed to be intended as a 70’s paranoia throwback but just never worked. As Roger Ferris, we found yourself in another tough role, without nary an ounce of lightness or humour to counteract the serious political messages.
Revolutionary Road – We enter an especially heavy period in your career. Beginning with Road, your return to the screen with Kate Winslet was a beat down of monumental proportions, taking us into the depths of unenviable despair. Broken dreams, delusions of grandeur, suicides, there was little for us to get behind your performance in this one, flying far over the top with melodramatic emotional histrionics. I blame Sam Mendes on that one. I’m sure you had better takes than the ones chosen for the final cut. I could even detect a hint of regret in your press junket interviews.
Shutter Island – Again, we found you taking a character into the lower depths, lower than even Revolutionary Road, this time into true madness, the 1950’s straight-jacketed lobotomy kind of madness. Again, dead wives, dead kids, the Holocaust are at the heart of this one.
Which brings up to date with Inception , with Christopher Nolan at the height of career and so you can’t no to a Christopher Nolan film. But again, we see you afflicted with the pain of another suicidal wife, in a complex emotionally heavy role not all that different than Shutter Island.
So please take a breather, shave off that goatee, take off that tie, put on some sneakers and chill out. Take a page from Brad Pitt’s book. He’s not particularly funny, but has a knack of choosing a variety of roles from those brooding melodramas like ‘Jesse James’ or ‘Benjamin Button’ but also disposable comedies like ‘Burn After Reading’, the Oceans movies and Snatch. Brad Pitt has much less Oscar nominations than you, equal star status and clout as you. Yet he consistently takes risks, working with new talent like Guy Ritchie, or Andrew Dominik.
I think we all know the story how Paul Thomas Anderson sourced you out for the role of Dirk Diggler in Boogie Nights but instead chose Titanic. Titanic made you what you are today, but at the same time, gave you a safety net of risk averse comfort which has resulted in many of these serious and unmemorable roles which sadly do not challenge your fine acting skills.
Thank you for your attention,