J. Edgar Reviews
J. Edgar Hoover, powerful head of the FBI for nearly 50 years, looks back on his professional and personal life.
Told largely in flashbacks that span the first indications in 1919 of a Bolshevik revolution threatening America, to 1972, when Hoover died, J. Edgar stars Leonardo DiCaprio in a mesmerizing performance as the tough-as-nails FBI man who prided himself of getting rid of the rotten elements in American society, and ordering his bureau and his agents to live up to his professional standards of loyalty and patriotism. Both Eastwood and screenwriter Dustin Lance Black depict the great things Hoover's FBI did, but they don't whitewash the fact that he was also a shameless, unapologetic huckster and salesman at boosting the FBI image at home and abroad, sometimes taking credit for certain big FBI catches (capturing the killer of Charles Lindbergh's baby; the killing of Dillinger) that he was never even present at-and, of course, the fact that his relationship with his close aid Clyde Tolson (Armie Hammer) was, how shall we say, more than merely professional.
Eastwood, more content now to be behind the camera than in front of it, gets a great performance out of DiCaprio, as well as solid turns by Naomi Watts (as Hoover's long-time secretary Helen Gundy), Dame Judi Dench (as his mother Annie), and Jessica Hecht as the notorious subversive Emma Goldman, most of them unrecognizable, including DiCaprio, under all the prosthetics and make-up, but still able to deliver the goods. As a director, Eastwood proved long ago, going all the way back to his directing debut Play Misty For Me in 1971, that he was more than just Dirty Harry or the Man With No Name, that he was a director of offbeat and extremely challenging projects, whether or not he was also on the other side of the camera as an actor. Recent films of his like Changeling, Letters From Iwo Jima, Invictus, Hereafter, and Million Dollar Baby proved this; and J. Edgar does as well.
I think that perhaps maybe one of the biggest problems was the subject matter itself. J. Edgar Hoover is one of those historical figures that is really incendiary and will stir up a lot of feelings from people on all parts of the spectrum. He's one of those people whose legacy is so contested that it would have been difficult to do a film on without causing a fuss no matter how it was approached.
And that's probably the best place to start. I kinda think like maybe this project wasn't really all that doable, no matter the strengths (combiend or not) of all involved. I didn't like the non-linear narrative, finding it unnecessary, and the broad scope of the picture made it seem even more weighty and overloaded. Maybe screenwriter Dustin Lance Blakc should have taken a page from his previous (and Oscar Winning) script for the biopic Milk and just focused on the most interesting parts of the subject's life and career instead of trying to cover such a wide swath.
Also, what doesn't help is how Hoover is a guy that it's hard to separate reality and myth from, and trying to get real truths to come out is near impossible. I knew some things about Hoover going into this, but by the time the film was over, I felt I learned both a lot and yet not really much of anything at the same time. The film just plods along and shows that Hoover had secrets and issues, but the film really doesn't have the guts to deal with any of it beyond a cursory level. I know Clint's an old fart, but I refuse to believe that he's lost his balls. There's no way. And if that's true, then we've really reached a sad time.
Thankfully, the film is somewhat saved by soem strong performances. Maybe not the best work from anyone in the cast, but still, they're at least a little more than trying. DiCaprio excels at thsi sort of thing, but he's done it better before. Hammer, Watts, and Dench are fine, but I was left very underwhelmed by them, or at least how their characters dealt with things. And Watts in general, despite trying her best, was really underused given the type of chcaracter she played. Perhaps it would have been better to cast a lesser known or heck, even a complete unknown.
Tom Stern, Eastwood's go to cinematographer as of the past several years puts in some terrific work here, and indeed, the film is gorgeous to look at, with the use of chiaroscuro really standing out. However, I think even that gets overbearing at times, and the use of darkness and shadows goes a little too far and really overdoes it in terms of symbolism. Still though, Stern's a guy who will someday be remembered for his work (I hope). Also, the make-up effects are actually quite good too. DiCaprio looks better in them than Hammer, but still, the end results are impressive.
All in all, the film at least tries, even if not very much, and it doesn't really accomplish much. I'm not even sure that Eastwood or Black know how they feel about Hoover and his legacy, hence while the film is the way it is. You could give it a watch, but only if you feel you must and truly believe that you aren't going to feel let down in some capacity.
UPDATE: I liked this film a lot more the second time through, and bumped up the rating half a star... it's too easy to take Eastwood's technical proficiency for granted, and watching it again, the details came to life a little more... on the other hand, though: wow, was Armie Hammer's makeup bad...
Very good biopic film! Eastwood delivers a dark brooding, and rather objective look at one of the most controversial and polarizing figures in America. While the story itself may not be overly compelling, it does offer explanations behind some of the motivations that made up the man, John Edgar Hoover. As for Leonardo DiCaprio, it's difficult to explain just how outstanding his performance is. It could have been a caricature, but instead he affords Hoover the respect his place in history demands. The 50 years of aging through make-up can be startling, especially since the time lines are mixed up throughout. His speech pattern mimics Hoover's, as does the growing waist line. There are some Citizen Kane elements at work in how the story is told and how it's filmed, but Eastwood wouldn't shy away from such comparisons. Visually successful, the film conveys the shifting time periods very well. There isn't an overabundance of special effects to recreate the past. The naturalistic appearance of the clothes, sets and props are welcome and feel genuine. J. Edgar is one remarkable film from the remarkable team of Eastwood and DiCaprio. Go see it!
Biopic of J. Edgar Hoover told by Hoover as he recalls his career for a biography. Early in his career, Hoover fixated on Communists, anarchists and any other revolutionary taking action against the U.S. government. He slowly builds the agency's reputation, becoming the sole arbiter of who gets hired and fired. One of his hires is Clyde Tolson who is quickly promoted to Assistant Director and would be Hoover's confidant and companion for the rest of Hoover's life. Hoover's memories have him playing a greater role in the many high profile cases the FBI was involved in - the Lindbergh baby kidnapping, the arrest of bank robbers like John Dillinger - and also show him to be quite adept at manipulating the various politicians he's worked with over his career, thanks in large part to his secret files.
Clint Eastwood nails it again, and so does DiCaprio. This is a good film, not amazing, but a good film that will only appeal and please political heads or history geeks, but either than that if you aren't under those categories you should watch this.
The movie tells the internal and external conflicts of J.Edgar Hoover, the director of FBI and hence one of the most important man on earth. From his political conflicts to his sexuality, Eastwood does a good job in creating an interesting autobiography of Mr.Hoover.
DiCaprio has really made his way out from being a silly actor to being one of the most looked up for and serious actors of our generation. He really stands out in this movie, he develops a complex character that Hoover really was and thereby paints a vivid and legit picture of this character.
Eastwood is also one of those directors that has really gotten to me lately. I've only became a fan of his work since Million Dollar Baby, but since then he has shown some serious, not western passion for film making, and is truly talented.
The makeup in this movie is divine. Well only really Hoover's because Tolson's is awful. But definitively something impressive.
Overall a good film, only recommended to those interested in slow political films that's gist is to elaborate on one of the worlds most famous and powerful icons.
J. Edgar Hoover: " It's time this generation learns the difference between villan and hero. Even great men can be corrupted."
The story is about J. Edgar Hoover (Leonardo DiCaprio) who was the man who started the CIA, and it shows the very serious and important moments in his life that formed him to become arguably one of the most powerful man in the history of America. It also chronicles his life about his racism, his relationship with lifelong partner Clyde Tolson (Armie Hammer), his relationship with his strict mother (Judi Dench), and some of the crimes he had solved in his years in the CIA.
The plot of the film was very slow and confusing to be honest, but that is not to say it was as bad as critics said. I found it very hard to follow but I began to understand better and better as the film went on. True it was pretty pointless showing Edgar as old man when we are already trying to understand his younger years but only a minor problem with the story. I think it would have been an incredible story if they had just had coherence and had made it clearer what was going on, but I still enjoyed learning about Hoovers life and his relationships he had with people. Some people claimed they had trouble keeping up with all the different stories the film had,which was probably the hardest thing for me as well. The characters were well done because they were real. I have read about these men and I think Dustin Lance Black has kept them true to the historical figures. Overall the plot was a bit of a disappointment on some levels, but on many other levels it was a very decent imaging of the like of J. Edgar Hoover.
The cast was the best thing about the film if you ask me, because an incredible cast is lead by one of the best performances of the year from Leonardo DiCaprio. Leonardo DiCaprio has always been my favorite actor, I know to many of you that seems kind of stupid, but he is part of my generation of actors and i have never seen a film of his I disliked. In this film he does not just play J. Edgar, he embodies this man and does one of the best performances he has ever done, and it is just hard to explain how great and Oscar worthy his acting was in this film. Armie Hammer played an incredible role as well. I knew after seeing The Social Network that his career would be going places, and so far I think its true. Judi Dench was great as always, but I did not expect a great actress like her to ever fail in a serious movie like this. Naomi Watts is also good with her role and if you have done your history then you would know that her role was very important to the life of Hoover. The rest of the cast was also great and this was by far the highlight of the film.
J. Edgar is not Clint Eastwood's best film by any means, but here he has given us a very decent biographical story on Edgar's life. To be honest I had not known anything about Hoover until I saw this film, all I knew was that he made the CIA and that was it, but with this movie I have been given more information about this man then I could have ever dreamed of so I give credit to Eastwood for at least attempting to make a perfect film about this man, and although it was not perfect, it was still decent if you ask me. With a decent story, incredible cast, and decent direction I believe that this was simply was a pretty good film that is definently worth a watch.