J. Edgar

Posted: December 2, 2011 in Uncategorized

J. Edgar

Grade: C

The film that I am going to review for you this week is brought to us by a powerhouse director and delivered by a cast that holds more star power than Andromeda.  J. Edgar is a biopic of J. Edgar Hoover, who was the head of the F.B.I. for nearly 50 years before dying in office in 1972 at the ripe ol’ age of 77.  In the film, director Clint Eastwood takes the script written by Dustin Lance Black and brings us up close and personal to the controversial former head of the FBI.  Was he abusing his power? Did he have mommy issues?  Was he gay?  Eastwood tackles each of these potentially career ending secrets with great care, making no apologies or explanations of why the stoic Hoover acted the way he did.  Leonardo DiCaprio leads the cast, as John (call me Mr. Hoover!) ranging in age from 24 to his death at 77.

The story begins with Hoover already in office and works in flashbacks as he is dictating his biography to several different FBI agent scribes.  Early on it becomes a question of Hoover’s honesty.  Did he truly work for the people as he claimed, working feverishly trying to protect the public and the Lindbergh Baby, or was he simply embellishing his stories to he could become a comic book hero?  Along with Hoover is Clyde Tolson, who was Hoover true life partner.  Tolson, played brilliantly by Armie Hammer, takes the number 2 spot in the FBI and maybe the number 1 spot in Hoovers heart.  This is the main crux of the movie, the hidden love story between Hoover and Tolson.  This seemed to be one of the worst hidden secrets in Washington DC at the time.  Hoover created secret files on members of the political world to not only advance his career but perhaps keep his personal life out of the papers.

This movie is clearly aimed at the members of the Academy, going out of its way to be considered an EPIC Biopic.  Unfortunately it falls far short.  In the beginning of the film, Eastwood’s use of the handheld camera makes it seem like a bad version of Blair Witch, only with StediCam.  The camera never stops moving for the first half hour, to the point of being distracting.  DiCapro is pulling out all the stops, and sadly he is using the same playbook from The Aviator.  Some of these scenes could have been copied and pasted from his performance as Howard Hughes.  In the scenes with his mother, played brilliantly by Judi Dench, DiCapro is less stoic and more creepy, almost Psycho like.  Norman Bates would have been proud.

The first and second acts never take the time for the audience to breathe.  I don’t think the broken timeline works here, at times the timeframe becomes confusing and it disconnected me from the film.  Maybe the use of on screen graphics to tell me the years would have helped.  I don’t know where the reported $35 Million budget was spent, but clearly not on special effects or make-up.  DiCapro aged to look like an older Hoover looked as if Johnny Knoxville from Jackass did the make-up.

Around the one hour and fifty minute mark, the movie finally starts to make strides and become interesting.  When Clyde develops a health issue, we then see Hoover become truly vulnerable, I just hate it took so long.  The first hour and fifty seem to be simply hitting the highlights from a history book.  Lindberg baby, check.  Fingerprinting, check. Being a librarian at the Library of Congress just to later impress a girl….check?

The supporting cast is brilliant; the score properly sets the mood…only Eastwood and DiCapro fail to get this movie off the ground.  I was truly looking forward to this film, this is a point of American history that I love to watch especially with the gangsters of the era like Bugsy and Dillinger.  This would have been a better and more focused film if Eastwood would have been selective with the content he attempted to cover.  I give this movie a disappointing C.


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