"Titanic" as Celluloid Travesty, Exhibit A: “Jack”, and the androgynous waif who played him
A lot of the problems with Titanic stem from the leading “man”, Leonardo DiCaprio, and the role he inhabits, “Jack”. Jack is supposed to be the “scruffy, from-the-streets, on-his-own” adventurer; having Leonardo “I have no secondary male physical characteristics” DiCaprio in this role makes him the least-believable “scruffy, from-the-streets, on-his-own” adventurer in film history. In this regard, he would outdo himself with 2002’s Gangs of New York, when would play the least-believable “scruffy, from-the-streets, on-his-own” gang leader in film history.
Seriously, how does this guy get roles where he plays an adult male? He was very good in 2002’s Catch Me If You Can because his character is about 16 at the start of the movie. Though years pass over the course of the story of Catch Me…, his character doesn’t seem to age; you don’t really notice this because it is in keeping with the movie’s spirit of a teenager getting away with an elaborate hoax. He was adequate in some of his other roles (The Beach, Romeo & Juliet, What’s Eating Gilbert Grape?, etc) where he was playing a teen or near-teen. But as a world-wise adult, supposedly one who has traveled the globe on his own, surviving by his own wits and tenacity? Puh-leeze. DiCaprio is so laughable in this role that Leonardo DaVinci should rise from the dead and demand his first name back. Indeed, it’s a travesty that the name “Leonardo” has been tainted by DiCaprio. A comparison:
So DiCaprio as Jack doesn’t work. However, it is hard to imagine how any actor could have salvaged the “Jack” character. Jack, we learn, is a scruffy-vagabond-artist-adventurer-whatever…..but his character is comprised of so many layers of baloney that it’s hard to know where to cry “Bull---t!!!” first.
** Jack manages to win passage on the Titanic by virtue of winning a 3rd class ticket in a game of poker. Watch the poker game again. Would anyone over the age of 12 lose a poker hand to Jack?
** Many accomplished artists have difficulty drawing hands. The famous portrait of Napolean with his hand tucked inside his coat is drawn that way, so the theory goes, because the artist, though accomplished as he was, chose to avoid having to draw a hand. So hands are tough. But not to Jack, who has pages of skillfully drawn hands in his ledger….
** So, though he’s got major artistic skills, he’s a “starving artist” (because to actually make money for his art would be so….capitalist! Yuck!). Bouncing from location to location, he rhapsodizes that he once worked “on a shrimp boat down in Monterrey…” As what, bait? Long haul fisherman are some of the toughest, manliest, he-men around. One look at Leonardo/Jack, and they would have thrown him to the fish…
** So Jack has been all over the world, but he doesn’t know what a salad fork is?
** After the Titanic hits the iceberg, the ship’s captain is getting a report on the flooding from one of the crew in ship-speak. Jack and Rose pass by, and after hearing about half a sentence of their ship-speak, immediately surmises “This is bad...” Wow, a cute-scruffy-vagabond-artist-adventurer-whatever…..and with a thorough knowledge of naval architecture!! What a guy….
I could go on, but the point is that Jack is supposed to be the world-wise, experienced man to wisk the damsel-in-distress away to a life of romance and adventure. The problem is, neither the character of Jack nor DiCaprio playing him are credible even for an instant. So in the leading male role, you have a one-two punch of suckiness: a non-believable character played by a miscast actor.
Of course, some of the supporting performances were even worse…
(To be continued…)