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