Out Now On-Demand
The most powerful man in the world.
Clint Eastwood (Gran Torino) directs Leonardo DiCaprio as J. Edgar Hoover, the face of law enforcement in America for almost 50 years.
Hoover was instrumental in founding the FBI in 1935, where he stubbornly remained director until his death in 1972. A figure of fear and admiration, over the course of his career he empowered law enforcers and created a legacy of surveillance starting with the cataloguing of American fingerprints. Some of Hoover's more controversial tactics, including the compiling of secret dossiers on the eight Presidents he served, led to future FBI leaders being limited to 10-year tenures. Behind the scenes, he held professional and private secrets that would have destroyed his career.
Judi Dench plays Hoover's mother, Naomi Watts plays his secretary, and The Social Network's Arnie Hammer his close friend and confidant, Clyde Tolson. The screenplay is written by Dustin Lance Black (Milk).
Biography, Crime, Drama
Rating: M contains violence and offensive language
Leonardo DiCaprio’s portrayal of FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover has been rightly acclaimed, but as compelling as his performance may be, DiCaprio isn’t able to single-handedly save what is in most other respects an unsatisfying film. Clint Eastwood’s direction lacks focus, most notably in the film’s pacing which makes J. Edgar’s two-hour-plus running time feel even longer than it is, and the quasi-conservative 81-year-old Eastwood proves one half of an exceptionally odd couple directing from a script by Milk’s Dustin Lance Black that delves into key rumours that swirled around Hoover.
The outcome is a film that hints at Hoover’s cross-dressing without acknowledging it directly and portrays his unusually close relationship with his male assistant as a chaste love affair, but as with Eastwood’s depiction of Hoover’s many illegalities, seems to walk a too-cautious line about its subject while still trying to titillate.
Whilst Hoover was a complex creature, and a simplistic view would not do the man justice or respect moviegoers, Eastwood’s biopic doesn’t seem to know exactly what it wants to say about him. Complex? Sure. But exactly how and why aren’t adequately fleshed out and Black’s script doesn’t do Eastwood’s staid directorial style any favours in flashing back and forth between narratives unfolding in tandem time periods.
To make matters worse, DiCaprio may convince under old man makeup but Armie Hammer and Naomi Watts look distractingly awful. J. Edgar isn’t going to win any awards for its makeup, that’s for sure, and outside of recognition for DiCaprio the film’s unlikely to earn any plaudits.
A.V. Club (USA)
Chicago Sun-Times (Roger Ebert)
Los Angeles Times
New York Times
Total Film (UK)
FBI: Frankly Boring Is
Clint's directed some great movies. THE OUTLAW JOSEY WALES, UNFORGIVEN, MILLION DOLLAR BABY, hell even GRAN TORINO was great for a longstanding Clint fan like me. But this? This is in the camp of Clint movies like MIDNIGHT IN THE GARDEN OF DULL & BORING - longwinded, tedious and not a patch on cheap, bogstandard biopic, THE PRIVATE FILES OF J. EDGAR HOOVER (1977), Larry Cohen's film featuring Broderick Crawford as Hoover. At least Cohen's doesn't carry the po-faced "gravitas" of Eastwood's J. EDGAR. This tries to be objective and ends up being plain vague. It tries to be everything and ends up being just a thin veneer. This plays like a movie made in the 1950's - cautious lest it meet the censor's scissors or upset the old guy at the FBI. Shame. A lot of talent at work - but all let down by a script and director innocuous as a first graders textbook on the history of Homeland Security. C'mon Clint, after this and the trite INVICTUS, I'm beginning to think you're showing your age! Where's the unforgiven million dollar Clint we know and love?
extract from theaterofthecommonman.com
Penned by writer Dustin Lance Black (Milk), 'J Edgar' could easily be received two ways. The first, an apt period dramatic, praised for its exhausting attention to detail and its exceptional character acting by Leonardo DiCaprio in his portrayal of the tormented protagonist J Edgar Hoover. The Second, a droll biopic with heavily over-worded dialogue, cartoonish makeup and uneven pacing. In reality J Edgar was both. Let down by its patchy construction, I felt as if I was watching a dramatic parody, a highlight reel of sorts. Having seen and read a number of Hoover biographies, it all felt a little familiar. I had the same reaction when I watched Gibson's 'Passion of the Christ'. I thought 'Hell, I know how this is going to play out'. To the uninitiated, J Edgar is a perfectly acceptable education in the man's mind and professional undertakings, though it should be noted that most of the film's more 'Delicate' themes are mere speculation fueled by decades of historical gossip.
Needless to say, J Edgar is the biggest disappointment so far this year. Delivered in a similar fashion to 'The Iron Lady', one only has to read that blog to understand the magnitude of my dissatisfaction.
I wasn't going to see Leonardo DiCaprio in the 3D version of Titanic , probably still won't still, just sayin.