Tom Jolliffe looks at the essential Jared Leto films…
Concluding our build up to Blade Runner 2049 with a series of essentials on the principal cast, we finish with Jared Leto. A musician/actor who seems to have been around for a while now, ageless and when perusing his CV you will find that he’s not done quite as many films as you’d think. Needless to say though, he doesn’t merely flit in every now and again between music just on a whim. Leto takes the acting craft incredibly seriously and has been known in a number of roles to be intensely method in his approach.
So, as I itch with bated breath to see Blade Runner 2049, here is (in no particular order) the essential Jared Leto.
Requiem for a Dream
Leto doesn’t often headline. He’s the antagonist, the support man and a chameleon-esque character actor. Darren Aronofsky’s breakout film, a dark, engrossing and repellent tale of generational drug addiction saw Leto take the central role.
Not only did this mark Aronofsky out as a director to watch, but Leto’s performance showed a level of depth and maturity that suggested a potentially great career on screen. Thus far he’s not gone too far wrong in fulfilling that, in carefully chosen roles.
Inventive, gripping and difficult to shake off after, Requiem for a Dream isn’t just essential Leto, it’s essential cinema.
The difficulty in doing a Leto-ccentric essentials list is the fact he often takes 3rd-4th billing. He’s appeared in some exceptional films in smaller roles. His role in Fight Club is small but significant and memorable.
David Fincher’s cutting and vicious satire on commercialism and consumerism against the backdrop of paranoid schizophrenia is pop culture candy. It’s one of those films that everyone has seen, wants to see, or will tell people to see. It hasn’t dated either and remains relevant. Glorious visuals, fantastic performances from all (including Leto) and the most oddly grimy cool feel, Fight Club is fantastic.
Dallas Buyers Club
Based on the true story of Ron Woodruff, an Aids sufferer who illegally imports a drug from Mexico to help fellow Aids sufferers. The film would would 3 Oscars, including one for Matthew McConaughey and indeed one for Jared Leto as best supporting actor.
Leto plays the transgender Rayon, whose excessive lifestyle has left her close to death. Between the two they set about supplying their fellow sufferers and finding an unlikely bond (as Woodruff is initially fiercely homophobic).
This isn’t an easy watch given the subject matter but it balances the feeling of impending inevitability and dread hanging over the main cast, their grim reality, with light hearted and uplifting moments. It’s an emotional ride, aided by the magnificent and committed performances and Leto really does steal the show. He’s sensational.
It’s rare these days to get engaging and thoughtful sci-fi these days. Whilst Mr Nobody doesn’t tread to heavily into the territory, opting for a more minimalist approach to it, it does so with skill and a good degree of auteurship.
A film about the infinite possibilities of a single decision and how one moment can skew wildly different life paths. Think Sliding Doors, Run Lola Run for example. This is complex, interesting and engaging.
Leto does take centre stage here. It’s a small indie film, but it’s a film in his CV that is well chosen. What it may lack in grandiose budget, it makes up for in thought. Leto is excellent (he’s rarely nothing less…the Joker being a rare mistread). Few will have seen Mr Nobody but it’s one of those sleeper films which is well worth seeking out and viewing.
I can’t not include American Psycho. Whilst Leto’s role is small and I’m pushing my luck somewhat, his part is memorable and somewhat key in the descent of Patrick Bateman. Leto’s Paul Allen represents to Bateman (Christian Bale) the nemesis figure. Bateman is almost obsessively competitive to the young upstart he sees as his closest rival. From everything down to who has the better haircut, business card, and links to the best restaurants in the City.
American Psycho is most certainly a cult film. However there’s an element of under-appreciation for just how brilliant this film is on several levels. I find many viewers will appreciate the levels individually but not their unison as a whole. It’s cutting, satirical (incredibly prevalent too), macabre, funny, intelligent. It’s also ambiguous, dark, and chilling. Bale’s performance really needs more love too. He’s exceptional in this. It’s still possibly his best. He balances dead pan oblivious humour brilliantly with intensely dark psychosis. The more we see Bateman’s lines of reality fracturing, the greater the film gets.
To some, and I sort of get this, the film is possibly a bit too odd. However, when you “get” American Psycho, and you embrace this fantastic mixture, it’s a film that will make many a top 100 list. As far as Leto goes he’s delightfully smarmy and his dispatching is fantastic (and almost oddly satisfying).
Honourable Mentions: The Thin Red Line, Artifact, Girl Interrupted, Prefontaine.
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