“J. Edgar” is the origin story of the FBI and ultimately, “The X-Files”
John Edgar Hoover is a complex figure in American history. He came along at the exact moment when he could accomplish the things he wanted. He served as the creator and director of the FBI for nearly 40 years and created many technological advances used in law enforcement today. His personal life has been subject to speculation following his death. If he were born into today’s 24 hour news cycle society he’d more likely be Augusten Burroughs than director of the FBI. We know too much about people now to make a surprising movie about someone. There won’t be any movies about Herman Cain
in 40 years where you find out things and say, “He did what with those women?”
[It should be noted that I saw this movie under the best circumstances. I was one of 4 people in the theatre so I felt like an eccentric recluse who forces his staff to watch films with him.]
“J Edgar” takes a look at some of the major accomplishments of his lengthy career. If you think J. Edgar Hoover is President Herbert Hoover, you’re going to learn a lot. If you’re a student of history or just super old, chances are you’ll be familiar with a lot the content, but “J Edgar” also focuses on a lot of his personal life. It takes some strong stands on his relationship with his mother and good friend Clyde Tolson(Armie Hammer).
Leonardo DiCaprio plays Hoover and does a phenomenal job, as expected. For DiCaprio, it’s a character similar in scope and style to Howard Hughes in “The Aviator.”(It’s the way of the future.) He completely becomes the character. It’s really gotten to the point that if he doesn’t blow you away with his performances, the entire film is a failure. DiCaprio is beyond the point of being allowed to phone it in.
A lot of care went into the production of sets and especially the makeup. A good portion of “J. Edgar” takes place when he’s an older man. The makeup looks great when they’re in a controlled environment and intentional lighting, but some scenes, especially the ones that take place outdoors, makes the elderly J. Edgar and Clyde Tolson look like Dan Aykroyd in “Nothing But Trouble.”
“J. Edgar” suffers most in its directing. Clint Eastwood wants to make every scene a poignant one and results in the movie having no ebb and flow. Everything comes off at the same level. The story is told mostly as Hoover dictates his biography and often feels like you’re being dictated to. It also suffers from the fact that J. Edgar Hoover just wasn’t really a likeable or trustworthy guy. He’s interesting, sure, but at no point did I find myself pulling for him.
It’s not a bad movie by any stretch, but also falls short of last year’s great historical biopic “The King’s Speech.” There’s an explosion near the beginning of the movie, but after that feel free to doze off at any point. Anything you miss can be filled in by the members of your house staff you forced to sit through it, or, lacking that, just check wikipedia.