Starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Naomi Watts, Armie Hammer and Judi Dench
Directed by Clint Eastwood
Rated R for brief strong language
As the creator of the FBI, J. Edgar Hoover was known as one of the most feared and hated men in America for almost 50 years. While some feel that he spent years abusing the powers he was given, it is his private life that many have found to be most interesting. This new biopic by Clint Eastwood explores both the public and private world of one of American history’s most intriguing characters.
I have to admit that I didn’t know a whole lot about J. Edgar before this film. We had read a little about him in history in as much as to obtain the knowledge of “who created the FBI?” I do remember my teacher discussing that he used to dress in women’s’ clothing but knew nothing more than a single fact and a rumor. I only say this because I have no idea how accurate the film is. Part of me trusts Clint Eastwood to create as factual a biopic as he is capable of. That being said, if this is a true story, it’s a fascinating one. The movie portrays Hoover as a man of pure ambition professionally and total confusion personally. A man who knows what is acceptable to the world and how to get ahead in it, but who also must hide his homosexuality from it. He makes a living of gathering secret and damaging information on the country’s leaders while at the same time hiding his true identity and damning secret from those that would persecute him. In this regard I found the character study to be intriguing.
The acting here is inconsistent. Actors of DiCaprio’s and Dench’s talents do well under the fast paced directing style of Eastwood, but Hammer, Watts, and other members of the cast come off as players who would have liked another take.
As for the production, there were also many inconsistencies. I was pleased at how good the makeup looked on DiCaprio as the older Hoover (I actually thought it was Phillip Seymour Hoffman at first sight) and how poor it appeared on Hammer who looked like he was wearing a bad Halloween costume.
I was also disappointed in Eastwood’s minimalist score which played like cocktail lounge music throughout. Clint is a talented composer, but this film needed a much better score than it received. I would bet that hiring Alexandre Desplat, a composer who is much more adept at expressing emotion in softer films, could have improved the experience immensely.
Overall, I liked the idea of this movie quite a bit, but I was distracted by the execution. There was a lot of potential for a masterpiece, but that promise was not delivered. C+