“Last Night I Drempt of Leo”: DiCaprio’s Oeuvre, Reviewed by a 15-Year-Old

by Lara Ehrlich

When I was 15 years old I was obsessed with Leonardo DiCaprio. I watched his movies repeatedly and methodically, captivated by The Basketball Diaries, a “kaleidoscopic free fall into the harrowing world of drug addiction,” and Marvin’s Room, in which Leo played a mentally disturbed rebel who kept pet flies on leashes of his own hair. I still long for that lanky youth who captured our hearts as Romeo and made us squirm with his less conventional (but somehow still sexy) roles — an old-school, pre-Gatsby Leo — but I will never long for him again the way I did in my teen diaries. Sic’d throughout.

May 11, 1996: Saturday, 11:35 a.m.

Last night/this morning at my party, J and I watched The Basketball Diaries, which was a horribly depressing, yet wonderful movie. In it, a basketball player (maybe 15 years old) gets into drugs, is kicked off the team, kicked out of school and his house, and almost dies.

One of the saddest scenes was when his old friend finds him almost dead in the snow and takes him home. The friend will not allow Jim drugs, so Jim goes insane that night. He screams, cries, begs, swears, foams at the mouth, and in the morning when the spell has passed, his friend goes to work and Jim escapes. He goes out with another friend who kills a man who sold false dope.

So now Jim is afraid and depressed and desperate and goes back to his mother’s house to beg for money. This was the most heart-wrenching part of the movie because he is almost insane and screams at her and sobs, and his own mother won’t let him come into the house. She calls the police on him and says that “a man with a knife” is trying to break in. She said “a man” and not “my son” because it would hurt too much to name this drooling, swearing, sick person at her door–the little boy she once held who called her “mommy.”

I have to stop getting so involved in things I read or see because now I feel as though I have a hangover and lost my only son.

Damn. I shouldn’t feel like that. It’s my birthday.

November 2, 1996: Saturday, 10:05 p.m.

I think Shakespeare was a cruel, cruel old man who created Romeo and Juliet to torture girls like me. I had been waiting for months to see the new movie which came out on Friday. Leonardo DiCaprio and Claire Danes were Romeo and Juliet. I cried through the last half and I’m crying right now.

I have come to the conclusion that there is no such thing as a Romeo. I’m still crying. There is no guy that beautiful who will come and declare me his love the moment he sees me. There is no guy that beautiful who would die for me. I don’t think there is a guy that gorgeous who will ever kiss me. I hate William Shakespeare.

November 3, 1996: Sunday, 8:27 p.m.

Today I was in an awful mood. I cried sporadically (alone) and blamed my mood on tiredness when my parents bugged me. But the truth is: I’m obsessed with Romeo and Juliet.

I keep rethinking scenes from the movie like when they first meet. Romeo is looking into a huge fish tank from one side when his eyes meet Juliet’s through a coral reef. Romeo follows her head with his — nose pressed against the glass. It is so totally believable that they had fallen in love. I’m miserable.

Romeo cares about a girl so much that he takes his own life. That was a high point of the movie. Just as he is giving his death speech, Juliet’s hand twitches. Her eyes open. Romeo, unaware with sorrow, downs the poison as her hand reaches his cheek. Romeo, feeling her touch, looks terror-stricken at Juliet. That moment when he looked down at her — I knew that William Shakespeare had made a great mistake by not adding that one crossing of life and death to his play.

November 29, 1996: Friday, 8:33 p.m.

For some odd reason, the kind of guys I end up thinking about constantly are those who one could picture: windblown hair, untucked shirt, smiling or unsmiling, half hidden in the smog, something dangerous and untamed — that is what draws me to the rebel — that thought that I want to be the one to tame the beast, to train the dog to listen only to me. Melodramatic, yes. But it is who HE is at the moment — standing half in the fog of my mind.

Leonardo DiCaprio is known as the “Next James Dean.” I don’t really know much about James Dean, but the picture I get is a guy in a black leather jacket, sitting on the hood of a car, a cigarette between his lips. In Romeo and Juliet, Romeo was positioned much the same way — only he was sitting on the beach in some other kind of shirt.

Ok, Ok, bear with me now — so he wasn’t wearing the jacket or sitting on the big car, but it was the same rebellious look — the cigarette dangling, the hair hanging into his eyes…what I’m trying to say here is that the kind of guy who interests me is the one who appears so cool that no one could penetrate that gorgeous exterior…except for me.

March 22, 1997: Saturday, 8:30 p.m.

The Beatles sang “All you need is love.” That’s true. But it doesn’t mean you’re going to get it from anyone.

Jessica and I had our Leonardo DiCaprio-Tom Cruise-Scott Wolf-a-Thon last night. We went to see Marvin’s Room at the theater. Leonardo DiCaprio was in it (the movie, I mean). We then came home to watch White Squall (Scott Wolf) and This Boy’s Life (Leonardo DiCaprio).

I think that I am in love with him. Leonardo DiCaprio is the hottest guy on earth… but this really has nothing to do with him.

I go to school every day, come home in the afternoon and do my homework, possibly go to karate (when I’m not too exhausted from weekend ski competitions), then go to bed. Then I start an exact replica of the entire monotonous day again. And again, and again.

I fell asleep in History the other day. We were watching a filmstrip from the ’60s. It was 2 ft x 2 ft, and Mr. M kept stopping it to talk. I was sleeping and actually had a dream.

I hate history class. I think Mr. M has been teaching for 100 years and is stuck in a pretty deep rut. We all despise him.

All of my teachers are idiots who can only come up with one reason we should listen to them: “If you learn this, it will simplify your life.”

Well, maybe I don’t want a simple life. I don’t want to be a geometry teacher (God forbid I disrespect Pythagoras). I can’t stand this any longer. I wish I had a boyfriend. That’s been my motto since 1992 when I started this journal.

I’m a lonely shell. So I watch Leonardo DiCaprio movies and tell myself that there is someone like him out there for me somewhere. I don’t know if I believe it, though.

April 6, 1997: Sunday, 4:11 a.m.

Today I watched a movie called Little Nikita with River Phoenix. Actually, I watched it because it had River Phoenix. It made me very sad, though, because he died of a drug overdose a few years ago. I kept seeing him as a drug-addict (which he was) and it was awful.

I had never seen a River Phoenix movie (though I saw him play young Indiana Jones in the first five minutes of that movie). He was supposedly an idol because of his acting and his looks, and Leonardo DiCaprio has been referred to as being much like him.

He is supposedly considered for movies in which River Phoenix was meant to star. So I compared the two. Actually, it seems that from what I have seen, they both have similar looks and characters. I wonder if Leonardo meant to copy River’s style of acting because it is much the same, except that in Little Nikita, he was not an all-out demented person such as Leonardo plays constantly.

River seems, from what I’ve seen, to be more of a free-spirited person (more fun). But that’s probably because he was high most of the time.

I wonder, if River Phoenix had not died, would Leonardo DiCaprio have become so big? I doubt it. I think that River’s death adds to Leonardo’s career because he has the same blond hair and blue eyes and acting ability in the same general genre. I wonder if River Phoenix was still alive, would he have played Romeo? I wonder, as well, what other movies he was in, because I wouldn’t mind watching them.

I think I need a boyfriend. I am getting too caught up in fake boys. River Phoenix is dead — but here I am feeling extremely sad because he was very nice looking and very talented and should not be a rotting skeleton in the dirt right now.

April 12, 1997: Saturday, 8:31 p.m.

Last night we watched Romeo and Juliet, as it came out of video Tuesday. I cried in all the same places. I felt the quickening of my heart as Leonardo DiCaprio filled the screen. He looked at Juliet the same way I remembered — I still want him to look at me that way.

It’s the idea of Romeo and Leonardo DiCaprio that saddens me the most. I know that Leonardo is only acting. That he really goes to the bathroom like everyone else, buys groceries, went to school… the Romeo in the movie was so intense and focused his entire life on Juliet, as she did Romeo. That is what tears me apart. In real life, love is divided. One person does not make another the sole purpose of living. They have jobs, families, chores, school, hobbies… but in this movie, Romeo and Juliet have nothing but each other, which makes it entirely believable and understandable that they would kill themselves when they lost one another. That is what I want.

I want a movie Romeo who has no other obsession but me. I want to be free of all other ropes but him. I want to meet him in the courtyard and kiss him until midnight without worrying about getting up early for school the next day. I want intense romance! Or any romance!

April 17, 1997: Thursday, 11:28 p.m.

Last night I drempt of Leonardo DiCrapio (as Dad so crudely calls my love).

I drempt that I had to fill a math requirement in high school and to do so, I was put in Brenna’s 6th-grade math class. To make this more interesting in my dream, I placed Leonardo DiCaprio in this math class as well. He was 16 and sort of time-reversed. I was my own age, but he was back seven years in time. So far, he’d only done a few episodes of “Growing Pains.”

Anyway, he sat all the way on the other side of the classroom — me seated on the far right. My teacher was a carbon copy of Mrs. B (who is my geometry teacher right now) except 100 times more dull. I managed to get my seat changed to directly behind him and I stared at the back of his head during class. Then, the dream took an odd, fantastic turn.

My mother (I think it was her) was driving Leonardo and me to a nonexistent beach behind the high school. I suppose that in my dream, I was still partially enrolled in the school, but Leo had been kicked out. Therefore, when he suggested taking a walk along the beach, I got nervous and asked if we should. Mom encouraged us and drove away.

There was a stone wall enclosing the ocean. The beach was an extremely narrow strip of sand because it was high tide. The rest is rather complicated.

Lara Ehrlich is a writer and editor in Boston. You can follower her on twitter @LaraEhrlich and read more of her angsty teen journals here.