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“J. Edgar” – Review (SO-SO POSITIVE)

November 13, 2011

J. Edgar Hoover is certainly an interesting figure in the public eye, his unethical tactics were deemed worrisome at the most, he was known as a hard man, some exclaimed an ‘evil’ man to work with. There have been assertions that his private life was indeed controversial, in the aspect of his close relationship with his second in command at the Federal Bureau of Investigations Agent Clyde Tolson. It makes perfect sense that Hollywood wants to get his story out there, but the right story or the elaborate one?

Screenwriter Dustin Lance Black said that during his research, he was lead to certain people that worked under Hoover’s eye, many who say multiple allegations about the man himself. The subject of Hoover’s life, during the F.B.I., maybe a tricky story to pull off respectfully or without hitting any controversy for some.

The movie’s overall story flows smoothly, for the most part, following over four decades of Hoover’s time with the [in]famous Bureau he created. From the radical communist attacks of 1919, to the Lindbergh baby investigation/trial, up to the days of John F. Kennedy, and President Nixon. Within those layers, lies the romantic subplot of Hoover & Tolson. The romance doesn’t really kick into full gear until the middle of the second ACT, but it’s an interesting look at the relationship of he and Tolson. If you’re wondering that DiCaprio dawns a dress, I’ll say this, there is a certain scene where a dress comes into play, but it’s played out more tragic than odd.

There’s no denying the star studded cast, Leonardo DiCaprio again gives a strong performance, one that can be deemed Oscar worthy, I wouldn’t at all be surprised if he does get the nomination. His on screen chemistry with Armie Hammer is spot on. Ever since “The Social Network” I had a feeling Hammer would be going farther in his career, even at a rapid speed. Some of the other supporting players do carry their own, but for some, like Naomi Watts, as Hoover’s long time secretary, Helen Gandy, she comes off somewhat stale. Which is disappointing for me, because I really like Naomi Watts.

Clint Eastwood’s direction is in the right place, but the movie never really goes for the choker. Hoover was so controversial and remembered as not the nicest of men to work with; to me it looked like Eastwood was holding back, almost like he was afraid to go too far. If a filmmaker like Oliver Stone was given the chance to direct this movie, it’d be absolutely clear that’d we’d have another “JFK” style film. Sure, it’d probably be ridiculous to the point of eye rolling, but it would be a little more entertaining. “J. Edgar” may drag for some, especially with nearly a two and a half our runtime, but it doesn’t negate the fact that it will hold up your interest. Especially during the portion of the Lindbergh baby investigation. I was familiar with that part of history but not to the fullest extent, so it was fascinating to see how that entire investigation was played out.

One thing I’m aware many are wondering about the movie is the actual relationship portion between Hoover & Tolson is told. The love story element between he and Tolson is captivating, and it’s amazing, if indeed it is completely true, how Hoover kept that whole portion of his life so tight lipped. But, the fact of the matter remains is that it wasn’t pushed to the farthest limit it could’ve gone. From a writer like Dustin Lance Black, who wrote the Oscar winning script for “Milk”, I was expecting a little more out of him telling that side of the story.

With that being said, was the movie good? Sure, I’d recommend it, if you like biopics, American History, or Leonardo DiCaprio in general, then I think you’ll have a good time with the movie. Don’t go in with high expectations, this isn’t “The Aviator”, but it’s something that I think over time, people will grow on it.

GRADE: B-

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One Comment leave one →
  1. November 18, 2011 2:54 pm

    Good review. There are problems with the story mainly because it feels like we are just going through all of these events that happened in Hoover’s life, without any real connection or anything. However, DiCaprio’s performance is great and Eastwood really does know how to direct any type of film and at least bring out some rich drama with its story even if it may be a bit muddled. Check out my review when you get the chance.

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