J. Edgar - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

J. Edgar Reviews

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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.
Super Reviewer
½ November 7, 2015
J. Edgar boasts a fantastic performance from Leonardo DiCaprio, but its just too droll and uneventful of a film to be great.
½ October 13, 2015
J. Edgar is a deeply flawed film in many prospects (storytelling, depth, filming, lighting, etc.) But Leonardo DiCaprio shines throughout and it's kind of ambitious to use makeup to portray Edgar's aging without other actors, even if it isn't that fully convincing at times.
JohnSilver
Super Reviewer
October 4, 2015
Pas le meilleur d'Eastwood. Beaucoup trop de saut dans le temps. On perds le fil, on ne suit pu la continuit√ (C) comme on le devrait.

Le vieillissement des personnages est parfois r√ (C)ussit, et parfait c'est un lamentable √ (C)chec!!
September 30, 2015
expected so much more from this film. It was really long winded. It was bored throughout most of it. Probably wouldn't have been worth watching without leonardo. Had to wiki the first part of the film as it was really confusing and un explained.
September 18, 2015
got this in the mail today - 1 day ahead of the official release date! - can't wait to watch it!!!
½ August 20, 2015
Leo is great, as always...but it was kind of boring & i fell asleep near the end.
August 10, 2015
I finally understand why most people didn't really like this film ( besides the makeup ) it's a bad idea to tell a life story of one of the most feared man in America from his perspective on one hand we see how he sees the world on the other hand alot of truth about him may not be there if you know enough of hoover.
August 7, 2015
The performances were well put together, but the dialogue was not on the top of its game. Leo gives another fine performance here but I wish the story was better
½ August 3, 2015
Interesting and superb, J.Edgar is a terrific biopic thanks to DiCaprio's performance
½ August 1, 2015
Not Leo's best acting but a good history lesson.
½ July 2, 2015
A nearly perfect film from Clint Eastwood. This is a bit of an oddly directed one though, I will say. But it does work for what is here and it is pretty brilliant and moving and sometimes disturbing as well. I can also say this is one of the best bio-pic's I've seen in a while.
June 3, 2015
Clint Eastwood's worst tendencies get the best of him in a mediocre biopic about a fascinating subject., DiCaprio doesn't fare much better.
June 2, 2015
J. Edgar is way too long, the screenplay is messy and the makeup is TERRIBLE, but I did enjoy it for its fascinating character (played tremendously by Leonardo DiCaprio). I admire Clint Eastwood's historical dramas because they're always about people and events that we never really learn about.
½ June 1, 2015
This was one of the most boring biopics I've ever seen. So dull and from Clint Eastwood? The makeup was noticeable, the cinematography was blah and uninspiring, the directorial structure was nothing special and rather muddled. Even Leonardo DiCaprio did not impress at all. He' s one of the greatest actors and his performance was full of recycled tics and facial from Revolutionary Road, Inception and Shutter Island. Skip this one.
May 25, 2015
As always, flawless performance by Di Caprio!
May 7, 2015
Leonardo DiCaprio gives an incredible performance in this outstanding movie about one of the most iconic figures in American history.
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