A couple of days after the Oscars, I overheard a conversation at work in the bathroom. It was two women, millennial age, talking about Leonardo DiCaprio. How amazing he is. How amazing his speech was, because he made it about the environment. How amazing it was that he finally won because he so deserves it and has been overlooked for so long. You already know how I feel about this. I will not repeat that in this post. What I am here to say in this post is that when that moment comes for Jake Gyllenhaal, I’ll be one of those people. Also, I’ll put up Jake’s performance in Nightcrawler up against ANY Leonardo DiCaprio performance in ANY film, head to head, and it’s always going to be Jake.
You know what the difference is?
Jake doesn’t sift through scripts looking for the Oscar.
Last summer, I wrote about The Atlantic’s piece on The Decline of the American Actor – click here for a refresher. It was published around the same time as Mark Harris’s analysis of Jake’s career. (Mark Harris, by the way, was not a believer in The Revenant.) Both articles seem to suggest that Jake is a singular talent. That while different roles can be imagined in different people, right now, there’s no one else who can do what he does. Not even Leo?
When Leo tries, he’s always trying within boundaries. This is why we’re not seeing Leo in sketch comedy. We don’t see him in romance either. As much as they want to tell you that Leo’s talent is boundless, it actually exists in a pretty confined space. When Jake tries? There are no limits. He’ll bulk up (Southpaw), he’ll starve down (Nightcrawler), he’ll grow a beard and get cold and climb the highest mountain (Everest) without telling you about the STRUGGLE, and he’ll get naked and earnest with Anne Hathaway in Love And Other Drugs. Or he’ll keep his clothes on but fall in love on Broadway (Constellations) and then, if you let him, he will sing.
Now, in that context, what has Leo done for you lately?
Jake was at SXSW this weekend promoting Demolition – in theatres next month (and not getting great reviews). By all accounts, he was charming, and funny, and self-deprecating, and not full of his own ass. Also he looks really, really, really good right now. Like his hair is perfect.