J. Edgar - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

J. Edgar Reviews

Page 1 of 156
September 13, 2016
A fascinating biopic of J. Edgar Hoover. I've seen the film a couple times now and I have to say this is one of Eastwood's most underrated films to date. Sure, the makeup and prosthetics do not work at all, and it is poorly lit throughout (plus the usual, overly de-saturated look you get in every Eastwood film makes it even harder to tell what's going on.) But for the majority of runtime, I found the story absolutely riveting. It humanizes its titular character, who, apparently, was a racist and homophobe, and delves deep into what made him such a powerful and controversial figure, public and private. I thought his relationship with his domineering mother, played brilliantly by Judi Dench, was interesting and his lifelong companionship with Clyde Tolson (a sublime Armie Hammer) was even more fascinating. It is a film that balances the liberal sensibility of its writer and the conservatism of its director, and standing in between them is DiCaprio, whom, I have to say, is very convincing as Hoover. It is a masterfully told tale of secret and power, and I thoroughly enjoyed watching it. "J. Edgar" is a solid piece of work.
August 25, 2016
I've always been interested in J. Edgar as a person because there are a lot of rumours about his private life yet no one knows what is true and what is made up. The movie kind of touches on all those so called stories, maybe with caution as it does not exactly say he was gay or a cross dresser but hints at him experiencing both aspects. I think Leo does a great job as always but the film does feel long and sometimes drags on with nothing much happening.

I think the issue here is that Edgar was a very interesting man and there is so much to look into and to show on a live screen that it would never work properly. I have always admired Eastwood's directing skills and i thought he did a decent job here too.
August 1, 2016
Technically proficient, well acted. But it somehow lacks an emotional connection. I didn't come to care for or sympathize with anyone in the movie.
Super Reviewer
½ July 16, 2016
A complete disaster that portrays Hoover as a selfish, insecure and intolerant man but we never find out who he really was. Besides, the makeup is atrocious, while the overly desaturated cinematography and dragging pace keep the audience even more emotionally distant.
July 10, 2016
I don't know if the disjointed timeline jumping did anything but detract the experience, I was confused. I saw an attempt to develop the character through themes he encounters and rencounters at various points of his life, but that was more for plot consistency than character, and it served neither. It took awhile to warmup to DiCaprio as Hoover, not his strongest work. And I am fairly exhasted with Tom Stern's muted color blue movies. Perhaps if the cinematography would change per era, we'd get something more lively and clever like Benjamin Button. The eras never felt very different, which may be a point about how Hoover saw the world, and didn't see it changing. But at the end of the day, was I totally moved? Somewhat, but not enough. Mild thumbs up.
June 28, 2016
Clint Eastwood, a veteran director delivers a polite and well executed biopic about one of the most controversial and enigmatic figures of the 20th century in America. Obsessed with the red invasion, J Edgar seems to have dedicated his life to eradicate communism from the surface of the earth. Struggling with his own demons and some personal secrets, the man remained dedicated and focused on his task till his dying breath.
On a technical level , the film is really well shot and the sets are lavishly reconstituted.
This may not appeal to everyone, but personally i was glad to watch it.
June 26, 2016
The story of J Edgar Hoover was compelling, but the back and forth between history and current required some mental gymnastics. As a black and white film, there was too much black. Maybe on the big screen the black and white would be easier than on my home TV. Interesting but difficult
June 16, 2016
A fascinating look at the creation of the FBI and American history from 1920-1970 or so. Amazing performance by Leo.
June 6, 2016
Another strong performance from DiCaprio bolsters this slowly paced drama directed by Clint Eastwood. Hoover is a man strong on values and nearly encyclopedic knowledge, neither of which lends to a good story telling vehicle. Instead of a linear story, which I would have preferred, we get snippets of history interspersed with present day happenings in the Nixon era. I enjoyed it, but would have enjoyed it much more if it were not so long and had more meat with the sides.
June 1, 2016
Repressed homosexual or not, Hoover was an asshole.
½ May 26, 2016
For a young film I've already seen this many times so far, I don't think it's great but I enjoy it. I like the history, etc. although there are obvious things which could have been improved such as pacing, chronological ordering which tends to be scattered and it could have worked completely linear instead, and the make-up too but it grows on you I guess. Worth re-watching to figure it out.
May 18, 2016
Great, reasonably balanced, biopic on a highly controversial figure

A study on J Edgar Hoover, famed long-serving director of the FBI. Explores his drivers and motivations, and personal life. Told through flashbacks as he narrates his career for his biography, we see how he built the FBI from scratch, some of his higher-profile cases (eg the Lindbergh baby), his obsession with Communists and anyone else he deemed enemies of the US and his relationship with Clyde Tolson, Assistant Director of the FBI, closest confidant and more.

A good study on a controversial, divisive, almost mystical, figure in US history. Not entirely complimentary, it gives a stark, and balanced, look at a very powerful, shaping force figure in US history.

Great performance from Leonardo DiCaprio in the lead role. Good support from Armie Hammer and Naomi Watts.
½ March 14, 2016
Decent biopic but only really skins the surface of Hoover's madness and malign influence.
½ March 12, 2016
DiCaprio delivers a great performance but the film is a drag. The pacing is all over the place and it just feels long and boring. I think the source material is interesting but I can see it better as a documentary or something like that. As a movie it just isn't very entertaining but it has impressive performances.
Super Reviewer
February 10, 2016
The pace was slow, but more detrimentally the characters were hard to sympathize with.
½ December 28, 2015
Not sure what to think of this one... Not knowing American history as well as an American probably does, it was difficult to follow, with all the flashbacks and references,... Came across as a bit of a mess...
½ December 22, 2015
58/100 - J. Edgar is a bit of an overstuffed mess. Clint Eastwood tends to draw out the details a little too much and focuses a lot more than I cared on Edgar's private life. There were times when it helped the film move along, yes, but on the whole I wanted to see more of how he changed the FBI's role. Leonardo DiCaprio turns in an excellent performance as always, but the film's absurd length makes it a bore aside from a few expertly crafted sequences.
½ December 9, 2015
I'll watch any film directed by Clint Eastwood, and one starring Leonardo DiCaprio sounded like a talented collaboration between actor and director.

Biopics are traditionally very conventional in formula, but J. Edgar is not. It is in fact so divorced from biopic formula that it attempts to be a legitimate narrative of other sorts, and that is a key problem. In attempting to balance the film's focus on its titular character and the history that he made, there is no balance between building plot and characters. J. Edgar ultimately resorts more to focusing on the story itself, but even then it fails to grasp what it seems to be talking about. The actual exploration of the titular character goes as far as touching upon the notion of his supposed homosexuality and his relationship with his mother while failing to delve into his psychology surrounding either.
From the moment the film begins until it ends, the entire experience is confusing because viewers are given minimal context before being thrown into a narrative about war between communism and democracy among other things. Attempting to figure out what was going on proved to be a real challenge because there are so many characters talking without the film conveying a fair understanding of just what they're actually talking about. This isn't helped by the constant jumps through time between past and present which jars the viewer with a poor plot structure. This seems to be for the sake of drawing parallels between the past and present of J. Edgar Hoover, but it is ultimately little more than a convoluted sentiment which causes the film to collapse under its own weight.
I had no idea who J. Edgar Hoover was prior to watching the film and hoped that it would answer my questions, but all I gather from the film is that he was both a man responsible for formulating many essential innovations in the Federal Bureau of Investigation and a closeted homosexual as well. But you can gather that from reading his life summary on Wikipedia, so I expected more from a 137 minute film directed by a patriot like Clint Eastwood. After the entire film, I still have no idea what a "Bolshevik" is no matter how many times J. Edgar Hoover talks about needing to protect the Americans from them. I'm guessing they're some kind of Russians, but the film shouldn't leave me guessing on a subject like that.
But as well as a lack of coherence, there is also minimal heart in the film. It fails to capture either the legacy of J. Edgar Hoover or a story which is genuinely all that entertaining.
The problem is that there is just not a lot to feel from the film because it is rarely atmospheric. When it intensifies focus on the alleged homosexual relationship the titular man shared with Clyde Tolson there is a sense of intensity, but in actually discussing what the man did for the world there is a lack of feeling that comes from it. For one thing, J. Edgar Hoover was notorious for his role in investigating the disappearance of Charles Augustus Lindbergh Jr.. The Lindbergh kidnapping was known by many to be "The Crime of the Century" while the pursuit of John Dillinger was similarly high profile material, yet J. Edgar is so desensitized from dealing with crime on a human level that it just uses the entire idea as a loose concept and not actual content. It is just another gimmick that the film points to as a distraction from the fact that it has no idea how to expand on it or structure it into the narrative sensibly.
In essence, J. Edgar has little to boast about in terms of narrative, leaving viewers with hopes of finding solace in the style of the feature. Remarkably enough, J. Edgar cannot even bring itself to light up a room for the benefit of viewers. The entire visual plane is darkened to give the film an older feeling, but it goes into territory too dark for its own good. The lighting in the film is clearly very poor since it goes beyond numbing the colours to a monochromatic feel and instead buries the entire experience beneath an abundance of shadow. The film effectively conveys a feeling of being old, but it most certainly does not evoke a feeling of any sort of competence. As much as the costumes and scenery evoke a feeling of nostalgia, the lighting very much blunts them by casting a repetitive series of blackness down the sights of viewers. This is all the more shameful because the costumes, props and scenery are all very nice yet buried heavily beneath an abundance of shadow.
A common criticism of J. Edgar is the quality of the makeup. After cross-examining the appearances of the actors with their real life characters, I conclude that I have no complaints in that department. The makeup is extensively detailed and makes it a challenge to decipher the cast members beneath them, further reinforcing the efforts of the acting in portraying the intended characters. This is particularly effective with Armie Hammer in the role of Clyde Tolson as there is no telling who the actor is behind the quality of the facial design. I have no complaints in the makeup department aside from the notion that perhaps some other actors could have used more of it to capture the appearance of their characters.
So as it has been established that the film offers little in a sense of style and the narrative doesn't make any sense, what does that leave J. Edgar with that is actually any good? A leading performance from Leonardo DiCaprio.
Predictably, Leonardo DiCaprio remains a powerhouse actor even in the face of such incoherent material around him which proves to at least make J. Edgar Hoover an interesting character on some level. He is so embalmed in the role inside and out that he is easily able to oscillate between the relentless determination of the man as the head of the FBI and the frail nature of him as a human being. Honestly, you could expect nothing less from him. You might when considering the quality of the material around him, but the fact that he transcends it with such ease is a reminder of just how talented the actor is. Leonardo DiCaprio easily conveys to audiences a belief that he is really in the world of the narrative by capturing the movements and manner of speaking that comes from any person living in the early age of the FBI without neglecting the specific style of the man he is capturing. What I learned from J. Edgar is that the man is a really difficult concept for the entire world to grasp, and so it is all the more impressive that Leonardo DiCaprio does such an effective job in capturing an impression of the man. Leonardo DiCario is a lone bright spot in the poorly lit J. Edgar, and the reminder of charisma justifies the viewing experience.
Armie Hammer also does a good job. Although the character of Clyde Tolson is reduced to being little more than the object of J. Edgard Hoover's affections in J. Edgar, it is during these scenes that the man hits the endeavour of his performance because he shows just how well he can intensify himself for a powerful chemistry with Leonardo DiCaprio. The two are a powerful duo, and even in the other scenes of the film he proves capable of maintaining a sophisticated edge in his manner of speaking and walking. Armie Hammer proves once again that he is a talented actor in a character-oriented drama.
The supporting efforts of Judi Dench and Naomi Watts are also a nice touch.
Jeffrey Donovan is of poor form in J. Edgar. As much as I liked Jeffrey Donovan in Burn Notice and in his prior collaboration with Clint Eastwood on Changeling (2008), in the role of a man as high-profile as Robert F. Kennedy, the lack of makeup on the actor and the slight change of voice tone does nothing to effectively convey the man that Robert F. Kennedy was or separate Jeffrey Donovan from his standard persona in countless roles. This effectively pays no favour to the actor or the character he portrays, and so his brief appearance in the film is of no believability and therefore drags down the experience momentarily with repetitive monotonous line delivery.

So Leonardo DiCaprio's powerhouse leading performance brings some life into J. Edgar Hoover, but Clint Eastwood's inability to give the material an appropriate structure, a sense of atmosphere or even proper lighting turns the experience into an extensive drag.
November 12, 2015
Don't be fooled by the critic's take on this movie. Sure, it drags a little. But it's still essentially a good movie. Di Caprio's performance takes it away. Makeup was perfect. I, honestly, enjoyed the movie.
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