I will always remain a fan of Clint Eastwood, both as actor and director. The man has carved out an impressive body of work that has practically contradicted who he plays as a character during the 60's and 70's. Many may think of Eastwood as The Man With No Name or Dirty Harry, while film geeks like me will think of him as the man who delivered sensitive dramas that are sometimes offbeat and constantly tragic but engaging. Eastwood has directed films like Mystic River, Gran Torino, Million Dollar Baby and Heartbreak Ridge among them all. He's an interesting director and his body of work has always kept me interested in making original movies. I don't think many directors make movies like his nowadays, and I only hope that someone will follow in his legacy to continue making movies like Space Cowboys or Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.
J. Edgar is the latest offering from Eastwood and as a fan, I will say that I certainly liked the film. Is it my favorite Eastwood film? No, it isn't. But it is a good film overall, and I think for a guy like Eastwood to make a movie about the founding father of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, I think he's a good choice to handle the material sensitively.
The story is about J. Edgar Hoover (Leonardo DiCaprio), the man who built the FBI up from a federal office whose methods back then, were considered petty, and are now considered crucial in solving crimes; from his life as a young man working for a federal agency that grew into the FBI, to his complicated relationship with Clyde Tolson (Armie Hammer), the FBI's Associate Director to Hoover's dealings with the various presidents that have governed the country. J. Edgar certainly tries to encompass as much of Hoover's life as possible, with one plot point focusing on the tragic Lindbergh kidnapping case, in which the famous pilot's son was kidnapped in greed and cowardice, before he was murdered and his murderer was caught (or so the movie discusses). The Lindbergh case, as it is with much of the film, leaves much to be questioned in terms of what happened versus what is told. The beginning of the film essentially focuses on Hoover as an old man (DiCaprio in considerable makeup), discussing his beginnings in the agency such as his credibility with the government, as he tells his story to a number of agents documenting his story over the years. The film is edited to mirror both Hoover's past and present life, from his relationship with his mother (a terrifically icy Judi Dench), his relationship with Tolson and his reliance on his secretary (Naomi Watts), the third of three people who understand Hoover, right to the secret files Hoover was notorious for keeping.
J. Edgar doesn't try to answer any easy questions, but what it does do, is tastefully address some of the myths such as his sexuality, the rumor that he was a cross dresser and his role as director of the FBI. The interesting thing about theatrical biopics versus television biopics, is theatrical films have a higher standard in which to live up to, and therefore, cannot make the subject of the film a caricature. I only wish the bozos behind the "alleged" John Belushi biopic "Wired" had taken notice (one of the worst films I've ever watched in my life and a deliberate, spiteful and vindictive insult to Belushi, even suggesting that Belushi is going to Hell). But back to point, J. Edgar simply explores the man of Hoover, contrasting his home life with his professional obligation to the FBI. His relationship with Tolson is one of the film's main subplots, and they handle the relationship tastefully without leaning the film in one way or another, by either saying that Hoover was, or was not homosexual. You need to see the film for yourself. The film was written by Dustin Lance Black, who wrote the Oscar winning Milk with Sean Penn as slain San Francisco supervisor Harvey Milk, which that film was a very well done biography of America's first openly gay politician. But while Milk contained a merging of political belief with personal passion, J. Edgar is more about the ramifications of one man building an institution that will eventually outgrow him. The film is sprinkled with historical references, from a meeting with Robert Kennedy to Hoover's viewpoint on Martin Luther King. The film is not easy to understand, and you have to really think about the subject for itself.
The cast is good and DiCaprio was expected, does a fantastic job. Although I think his performance tends to falter a bit when he plays Hoover as an older man, in his mannerisms and speech patterns. But overall, DiCaprio is probably on his way to an Oscar nomination here, and he continues a hot streak of working with great directors like Eastwood and Inception's Christopher Nolan. I've always admired him an as an actor and I CAN'T WAIT for his role as the central villain in Quentin Tarantino's western "Django Unchained". The supporting cast from The Social Network's Armie Hammer to Watts, Dench and character actors like Stephen Root, Denis O'Hare and Josh Lucas (who plays Charles Lindbergh), all turn in strong performances. The production values are impeccable in costume and set design, and as one of the reasons why I like Clint Eastwood is director, is his cinematography, often shooting the movies with shadow lighting and blue overtones like he did in Gran Torino and Mystic River, he does with J. Edgar. Eastwood has always been about the loner character as he does with these films, and he does yet another impressive turn here.
Although I have to say that my issue with J. Edgar is the pacing, as I feel that it's slow moving. The film seems to end at an appropriate time before they revert back to something else. If anything, the film intends to be as full a biography about Hoover as possible. In that department, they don't falter but in the pacing of the film, they do. The makeup itself is impressive on DiCaprio, Hammer and Watts as older versions of themselves. But aside from good production values, the story is relatively strong. J. Edgar sets out to both establish and deconstruct the myth of J. Edgar Hoover and his role in American government, but tries to make it as tasteful as possible without melodrama. I will say for those who love American history or Clint Eastwood's films, I don't think they'll be disappointed.
Read all 13 Reviews
Write a Review
Movie Mood: Serious Movie
Viewing Method: Studio Screening/Premiere
Film Completeness: Looked complete to me.
Worst Part of this Film: Pacing