J. Edgar

Posted November 23, 2011 by in


Total Score

1/ 5

Quick Stats

Genre: historical drama, biopic
Director: Clint Eastwood
MPAA Rating: R
Actors: Leonardo DiCaprio, Armie Hammer, Naomi Watts
Length: 137
Release Date: 11/11/2011
Studio: Imagine Entertainment, Malpaso Productions, Wintergreen Productions
What We Thought

If J. Edgar isn’t intended as a tragic story, the film itself certainly is, its fatal flaw being over-ambition, covering too many events over a time span too broad.

by Daniel Hodgson
Full Article
F.B.I Director Hoover tells his life story to young FBI agents, as they help him write his memoir.  The film goes back and forth in time, showing us the young, ambitious Hoover as he is appointed head of the FBI, and the corrupt Hoover later in life.
     The flashback sequence shows Hoover as he battles communists, willing to deport dissidents with scant evidence.  He then battles the mob during the Depression.  At last, the flashback sequence really gets going as he investigates the Lindbergh baby disappearance.  The flash-forward sequence is even more haphazard, as Hoover’s “ends justify the means” philosophy solidifies, as he blackmails various figures of the day, none of them related.
     DiCaprio dives into the role head first.  He isn’t afraid to look vulnerable on screen, and there’s a couple of scenes that show the controversial—if speculated—side of J. Edgar Hoover.  He especially shines playing the elderly Hoover, complete with a tired look in his eyes and slowed physical movements.  The make-up in this film is state-of-the-art, not merely making him look older, but completely redefining his face and body.  And yet DiCaprio’s iconicity overwhelms his portrayal.  I always felt conscious that I was watching today’s A-List actor.  The living DiCaprio, star of such blockbusters as Titanic and Inception, overshadows a man buried nearly 40 years ago.
     The film tries to be an allegory for today’s America.  It starts off with the bombing of a politician’s home—an act of ideological terrorism.  As Hoover comes to power, he’s willing to do anything, right or wrong, to protect his country, including illegal wire-taps.  But the script never focuses on it, and spends much time in a romantic subplot that’s buried under layers of subtext that gradually reveals itself, if too late.  The film shows Hoover’s obsession with public image, but is too timid to show the private life it hints at to create real tension between the two facets.
     J. Edgar lacks a sturdy narrative thread; causal links between one event and another, particularly in the flashforward section of the film.  Hoover reacts to the events of his day.  One thing happens, then something unrelated happens, presidents come and go, and eventually, the film ends.  If J. Edgar isn’t intended as a tragic story, the film itself certainly is, its fatal flaw being over-ambition, covering too many events over a time span too broad.

About the Author

Daniel Hodgson

Daniel has a degree in film from the University of Texas at Austin, and writes about himself in the third-person, because that's the fashion.


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