You can never predict what will be a hit from Hollywood. Take the case of J Edgar. This movie has an important and acclaimed director -- Clint Eastwood. It has one of Hollywood's hottest stars -- Leonardo DiCaprio. It concerns one of American history's most enigmatic and powerful people -- J Edgar Hoover. With this combination there should be no doubt of its success. Think again. This movie is a mess.
The movie tells the story of J Edgar Hoover (DiCaprio), the head of the FBI for fifty years, and one of the most paranoid people to ever hold such a status in our government. Hoover saw an enemy in every crime, an assassin in every foreigner, and a foe in every politician. He amassed his "dirty" files on Presidents and other politicians in order to keep the country safe. Or at least this is what the movie indicates.
He was very attached to his mother Annie (Judi Dench), perhaps to his own detriment. He actually lived with her until her death. She exerted great influence over him and he was always submissive to her wishes. The only other woman who had a major role in his life was his secretary Helen Gandy (Naomi Watts).
The movie indicates there was perhaps a homosexual relationship between Hoover and his second in command Clyde Tolson (Armie Hammer). This relationship is not explored in depth, nor is Hoover's alleged cross-dressing.
The problem with the movie is its lack of depth on any aspect of Hoover's life. You get glimpses here and there but no real analysis. The film is too busy trying to impress us with the story of the Lindbergh baby kidnapping, or Hoover's confrontation with the Kennedy brothers. It also spends too much time on Hoover trying to make himself a hero by falsifying information.
As the film flashes back from the days of the older Hoover to the days of his younger persona, the audience gets movie story whiplash. He's old, he's young, he's middle aged, he's old again. Only the makeup makes us aware of where we are. Still it must be said that the aging makeup on Hoover is impressive. On Tolson it is painfully bad.
The acting is okay with DiCaprio trying to fill in the gaps that surrounded Hoover's history. But an actor can only do so much with a weak script and Dustin Lance Black's script is very weak.
The movie is rated R for profanity and violence.
Eastwood does not seem to be in control of his story as he lets it ramble far and wide. This is certainly a disappointment as he has been so much in control of films such "Million Dollar Baby" and "Gran Torino."
J Edgar has to go down as one of the major disappointments of the year. It had a ton of potential but it sank like a stone.
I scored J Edgar an unknown 4 out of 10.
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