Sunday, 28 March 2010

Performances of the Decade (Male)

I’m breathing sigh of release in a way as I come to the final two entries in this long feature. Surely, it’s all subjective because we all have different thoughts. The aughts have been regarded as the decade where many actors burst on to the scene – Depp, Hoffman, Ledger but for me the aughts were all about one man. If I decided to do a list of the greatest actors last decade he’s top it easily. It’s a performance that has not been celebrated enough as it should have been. But that’s what I’m here for, to remember the greatest male performance of the last ten years. This was an easy choice.
#1 Leonardo DiCaprio in Revolutionary Road (2008)
Revolutionary Road is difficult to watch as it is to pull off. It seems to begin at the crescendo and the actors need to harbour the interest of the audience for the next two hours. But it’s a trick really. Sure, Leo is good in those first few scenes but it’s nothing compared to what is to come as he gives the best performance of his career. The clichéd feeling of the fifties man dissatisfied with his life probably does not resonate as much as it did when the novel premiered, but Leo breathes new life into the cliché. It works because of the familiarity with him. We’ve watched him grow and that irrepressibility is still there in him even as we watch the life – literally – being sucked out of him. He manages to keep us feeling for him even as he cheats on his wife. His guilt is palpable, like in the shower was we can see him trying to scrub off the traces of the sordid affair.
Like with his last performance cited what makes Leo’s Frank so memorable is the bits of vulnerability he is so willing to disclose. He tries to hide is fair and immaturity behind his audaciousness; but like his wife’s coldness it’s simply a mask that we can watch crumbling if we look closely at him. From the final appearance of John until the film’s end Leo is in excellent form. I cannot help but cringe as he confesses his affair to April. It’s the sort of impish, pathetic thing we expect from him. It is sad to see his reaction as he realises her (assumed) apathetic stance. The growing panic on his face is difficult to watch as you can see him literally clutching at straws. It’s a panic that turns Shanley’s visit into a disaster. It would seem over-the-top as Frank gets physical with his guest, but we need look closer. This is a man at breaking point.
That final dispute with April belongs to DiCaprio completely as he crumbles before our eyes and we see him for the child that he is. His reaction the next morning to April is excellent, his hesitance and uncertainty. I love his reading of the line “You don’t hate me; or anything…” Of course that final reaction to April’s death is a classic. The run through the streets – with no destination –it’s perhaps a theme of his life. It’s strange that the tagline for Mendes’ debut was ‘look closer’. We should probably do the same with DiCaprio’s work as Frank Wheeler.
I suppose this is a surprising pick, but Leo has never impressed me more. What are your thoughts on him in Revolutionary Road?


Simon said...

Hm...I see your point, but to me, he's been on the wrong side of vulnerable. Everytime he plays a rolee like this, or in Shutter Island, he just seems like a kid playing dressup in his father's clothes.

anahita said...

um, TOTALLY agree. This post reminded me why he's my favourite actor. It's not my favourite performance of the last decade, but it was definitely one of the top he's ever done (the best for me is romeo + juliet) and, although kate was fabulous too in the film, he truly made it for me. xx

Andrew: Encore Entertainment said...

simon i don't agree, but you points do get me thinking...he does look very young...

anahitai'm a fan of his too, so no complaints here.

Olive said...

I'm a big Leo DiCaprio fan and I think his acting is just getting better and better. He put in a great recent acting performance in Shutter Island and in the Departed. I thought he was excellent in Revolutionary Road, although wasn't too keen on the film itself.

Caz said...

Fantastic choice for your number 1 spot of male performances of the decade. DiCaprio really blew me away in Rev Road, a film which I found difficult to watch in the sense that he was so believable with Winslet and it felt wrong to be watching the arguments.