Whatever the case, you can see why neither wanted this film to find a wider audience, given each young actor leaves an intensely vain and misogynistic impression in the movie’s scant 89 minutes. Filmed in 16mm black and white and mostly around a single diner location, the pair join Kevin Connolly of future Entourage fame, plus others, in portraying whiny narcissistic youths of ‘90s LA. To be clear, they are playing intentionally callow characters, but reportedly much of the dialogue was improvised, and given the rumors that persist about DiCaprio and Maguire’s alleged “Pussy Posse” of the same decade, the trash these characters talk raises more than a few eyebrows. Ultimately, however, whatever the truth of the film’s origins, it does play like a rough student film with all the performances having a green artificiality to them which does nobody any favors.

28. Total Eclipse (1995)

Released in that awkward era where LGBTQ stories were finally gaining interest in mainstream media, but studios and many audiences still shied away from actually acknowledging the queerness of the material, Total Eclipse plays like a painfully dated arthouse vanity project today, but it’s unlikely anyone found the supposed “erotic drama” much more scintillating then. Based on the passionate, violent, and very romantic relationship between real-life 19th century poets Arthur Rimbaud (DiCaprio) and Paul Verlaine (David Thewlis), Agnieszka Holland’s Total Eclipse fitfully and timidly wants to tell a love story between two men without much in the way of love.

Focusing more on their sexually fluid relations with (and competition over) Paul’s muse (Romane Bothringer), Total Eclipse fails as gripping drama, erotic or otherwise, and this is in large part because of DiCaprio’s most misjudged performance. The film undeniably leans on the actor’s youthful handsomeness, but there’s a self-conscious nervousness to the performance, suggesting the actor either didn’t trust the material or didn’t trust how it might affect his career. Either way, his line-readings are uniformly flat, and when his supposed fiery poet makes a Belle Epoque indecent proposal, the conviction is about as believable as the chemistry between the two male leads.

27. The Man in the Iron Mask (1998)

As a child of the ‘90s, Randall Wallace’s The Man in the Iron Mask still works as a bit of a guilty pleasure. With its bombastic score by Nick Glennie-Smith, and scenery-chewing performances by Jeremy Irons, Gérard Depardieu, and a wildly miscast John Malkvoich as Athos (the Oliver Reed role), this is as grandiose a Hollywood adaptation as we’re ever likely to get of Alexandre Dumas’ final Three Musketeers novel. Still, it’s not good, and unfortunately DiCaprio is one of the movie’s biggest problems.

The first film DiCaprio did after Titanic (which gave this movie a big opening when it released three months after that film began its historic box office voyage), the film provided DiCaprio with dual roles: the eponymous Man in the Iron Mask and the part of his dastardly twin brother, King Louis IV. DiCaprio fairs better as the poor sweet lad who spent a lifetime in his mask, but the actor hadn’t quite figured out how to play a heavy just yet, and his Louis is a one-note caricature in royal mustache-twirling (the shoulder length hair also didn’t help). Still, to give this guilty pleasure its due, Gabriel Byrne conversely provides a stoic gravitas which represents the closest Hollywood ever came to putting Dumas’ D’Artagnan on screen.

26. J. Edgar (2011)

By the end of the 2000s, DiCaprio’s grumbling hunger to win an Oscar was becoming deafening. Nominated for a little gold man for the first time at only the age of 19 after  co-starring in What’s Eating Gilbert Grape, he’d been nominated two more times by 2011 and still had no trophy. In fact, he’d been snubbed at least once. Which would explain his garish, pandering, and altogether desperately baiting performance in J. Edgar.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *