Sunday, November 13, 2011

J. Edgar

There are many exaggerated adjectives one can throw J. Edgar’s way, none of which, I’m afraid, would be very good. Clint Eastwood’s new biopic chronicles most of the years lived by the founder of the FBI.  Years that I’ve heard about (and seen dramatized in other films), but none that I have any factual knowledge about.  My point is, the J. Edgar Hoover I know of is a man of great, tumultuous contradiction.  A hypocritical brute that paraded privately in women’s clothes and infuriated most any person that came in his path.  Hoover was, by most accounts, a rather interesting figure.  Problem is, in Eastwood’s film, he’s anything but.

I’m going to do what I prayed Eastwood’s film would do throughout its entire laborious running time: get to the point. J. Edgar is clunky, misguided, long, and aimless; a genuine, all around bore.

As the titular asshole, Leonardo DiCaprio does well with what he’s given, but that isn’t exactly high praise. The script, by Dustin Lance Black (who won an Oscar for penning Milk), can be largely credited for the film’s utter lack of vision.  The dialogue is rambling and dull, and the scene placement is gimmicky yet oddly lazy.  (There are flashbacks within flashbacks and several jump cuts in the supposed “present” time.) Basically, it’s hard to know when the hell anything is going on, and after several minutes of trying to figure it out, you realize you’re better off just letting it go.

Honestly, after 30 minutes or so, I didn’t care about DiCaprio’s Hoover, or the relationships he has with his secretary (a seriously underused Naomi Watts), the colleague he fantasizes about (Armie Hammer), the mother he’s obsessed with (Judi Dench), or the global figure he looks up to (Josh Lucas, as Charles Lindbergh). I was simply on audience auto pilot, biding my time until the credits rolled.

As much as I hate to admit it, Eastwood is in yet another funk.  After back-to-back masterpieces with Mystic River and Million Dollar Baby, not to mention his ballsy double-take on The Great War, Eastwood’s films have mostly been hit-or-miss these past few years.  While I’ve enjoyed certain aspects of Changeling, Gran Torino, Invictus, and Hereafter, they are all far from perfect (or even great, for that matter).  J. Edgar, however, is his first inarguable misfire since the lame crime days of Blood Work and True Crime, and the useless fluff of Space Cowboys and Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.

I can in no way recommend J. Edgar to you, and save a possible nomination for Best Makeup, I seriously doubt you’ll be hearing about the film come awards time. D


  1. Man, that blows. I'm definitely an Eastwood fan, so this bums me out.

  2. Well, I guess I won't be paying money to go see this in a cinema! But I don't know about Oscar chances, the Academy seems keen to recognize Leonardo DiCaprio for everything! we'll just have to wait and see!

  3. @Robert, I LOVE Eastwood, I've almost seen all of his movies. This is easily one of his worst. Bummer man

    @Aziza, DiCap will prob be nominated, but he doesnt stand a chance against Pitt, Gosling, Fassbender, Jean Dujardin, etc

  4. Ouch. An on and off Eastwood fan - have never really loved any of his films, though I did like Mystic River a lot - but the poor reports on this one are a surprise. So this will be another 'good performance in a bad film' nomination?

  5. Yeah I think that'll definitely be the case. Before the movie came out, Leo was the front runner. Now, if he's nominated, he'll easily be fifth place. Shame.

  6. It wasn't terrible like I was imagining, but it does feel a little like it is just showing Hoover's achievements, rather than the actual person himself, which they actually try to do but sometimes work and sometimes fail. Regardless though, DiCaprio is awesome. Nice review Alex.

  7. Yeah I did enjoy DiCaprio, but I really felt like the material failed him (and everyone else invoked). Thanks for commenting!