Thursday, October 19, 2006

Growing Pains

When The Age of Innocence was released, I so wanted to love it, but I found I couldn't imagine Winona Ryder as anything but Winona Ryder, no matter what period costume she's wearing. It worked for me in Heathers, but later, there she was, Winona in a pretty hat, or Winona in Jo March's clothes, or Winona in bed with Richard Gere. I can get past the Famous Actor persona in most cases - Reese Witherspoon, Julia Roberts, Brad Pitt, George Clooney - and I even bought Meg Ryan in her edgier roles. Some actors never ask me to picture them outside the public image - Tom Cruise (not counting his brief appearance as a Vietnam vet), Clint Eastwood, Catherine Zeta-Jones. But a few leave me with the Winona effect.

Leonardo diCaprio remains, for me, the young pinup who got his start on sitcom television and slid into a stereotypical role as rakish Jack in Titanic. His attempts to be serious and grown up in movies like The Beach and Gangs of New York seemed silly to me. I just couldn't buy him as Howard Hughes, the ladies' man. So I was shocked by the realization, halfway through The Departed, that I had completely forgotten he was Leo.

I didn't know much about the film before we bought tickets - mainly, it had an interesting cast (besides Leo, I thought), a cops vs. robbers plot, and was another male-heavy Scorsese picture. I was just so happy for the opportunity to see a first-run American movie that I was willing to see almost anything. I lucked out. It was interesting, complex, violent, subtle, and unpredictable. There were some good performances - Jack (another one who, in the last few decades, hasn't left his persona too far behind) chewed the scenery and Mark Wahlberg was a scene-stealer. Matt Damon and Martin Sheen were fine, though they didn't wow me. Scorsese picked a winner of a script and kept the story moving. But by the end of the picture, it was Leo who had impressed me most. I think I might have become a fan against my will.

See The Departed if you're ready to think, and you don't mind some blood and darkness. If Leo is still stuck in that teenage box in your head, give him a chance to grow up. And I'm going to keep an open mind about Winona.

1 comment:

Kathy said...

I guess I have felt differently about Leo. Mostly because the first time I ever REMEMBER seeing him was in "What's Eating Gilbert Grape" and I thought for a teenager, he was amazing. It is true that he has had some roles I didn't buy, but over all I have been a fan ever since.