Posted on 2/27/12 09:18 PM
J. Edgar is a joyless by-the-numbers biopic that falls too frequently to convention. Clint Eastwood brings his usual class and professionalism to the screen, but the film still rings hallow. It's overly-serious and self-important, and like many of Eastwood's recent efforts, it lacks color and has a gloomy washed-out look and feel to it. I believe that every film, no matter how serious the subject matter, should incorporate some sort of comic relief, but J. Edgar is as serious as can be, rendering it cold and monotonous. Another major problem is the poor lighting. I assume Eastwood was aiming for a dark, shadowy almost noir-ish atmosphere, but the shadows are distracting and it's difficult to see what's happening. DiCaprio's eyes become like dark voids and often over half his body is hidden beneath shadow.
Many have praised Leonardo DiCaprio's performance, but I was mostly indifferent towards it. I must confess that I find DiCaprio ridiculously overrated. I liked him in the '90s and early '00s, but since about 2006, he's just been repeating the same "Departed" role, where he acts tough and looks angry by scrunching his forehead. Like Eastwood, I think he takes himself too seriously. He needs to let loose and put a little more soul into his performances. Admittedly, however, this is one of his better performances in recent years. I know little about J. Edgar Hoover (okay, I know absolutely nothing about him), so I can't exactly judge DiCaprio's mimicry. However, I can say that he delivers a passable, if impressive, performance, not awards-worthy per se, but still good enough.
One of J. Edgar's best qualities is its superb set design. Like 2008's "Changeling" it seamlessly evokes its era down to the very finest details. However, Eastwood's dazzling set design is smothered by uneven story-telling and a mediocre script. The non-linear narrative structure is difficult to follow and gratuitous. J. Edgar is 137 minutes of seemingly endless, monotonous boredom.