Friday, November 11, 2011

A Reel Review: J. EDGAR

Clint Eastwood’s J. EDGAR is not only an attempt to tell the life story of the famed FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover, but to also offer a large slice of American history. With those two goals, J. EDGAR is a triumph; America of the past is vibrantly brought to life, and Mr. Hoover right along with it. Unfortunately for Clint and his film, J.EDGAR forgets to do one important thing: it forgets to give the audience a reason to care about any of it.

J. Edgar Hoover (Leonardo DiCaprio) tells his life story to agents assigned to pen his memoirs. Leaping backwards and forwards in time, J. Edgar’s rise to power in the newly founded FBI is documented, along with his personal life, which includes his long-time secretary Helen Gandy (Naomi Watts), overbearing mother (Judi Dench) and life-partner Clyde Tolson (Armie Hammer). The film covers over 40 years of history as he battles through threats to the U.S. Government, his own agency, political scandals, and the historic kidnapping of the child of Charles Lindbergh (Josh Lucas).

Having the main character of a biopic dictate his own tale is an interesting, and mostly successful method. The story is being told through Hoover’s own eyes, and he exaggerates facts at will to build his own and the FBI’s legend. The fact that he is embellishing here and there is not known until the end, and can make the audience scratch their heads wondering exactly what it is they just witnessed in all the flashbacks.

Outside of that, the film is at its strongest going though important events in the FBI’s, and America’s history; History buffs would love this. But Eastwood always seems to be filming things at a distance; there is always the feeling that he could have, and should have gone a just a bit deeper. Hoover is there before us, and for the most part we can feel his motivations, but never given a reason to care.

DiCaprio is very good in the role. He manages to vanish underneath the ridiculous amount of old-age makeup and really sell the character; his old-man acting is more convincing than the makeup. Less successful is Armie Hammer, who in playing J. Edgar’s lover does little more than smile and look pretty, and he fails to act well enough through the awful mask-looking makeup he has to wear. The lovely Naomi Watts is underused, but at least she still looks good in her old-age getup.

Eastwood stocks the film with some well-cast celebrity look-alikes from history; everyone from Nixon to Shirley Temple. J. EDGAR is saturated in American lore, with endless monologues from its main character. But for as much as the film talks, it feels like not much is said. J. EDGAR is all glory, no guts.


No comments:

Post a Comment

A few rules:
1. Personal attacks not tolerated.
2. Haters welcome, if you can justify it.
3. Swearing is goddamn OK.