J. EDGAR

0.5 Stars
Year Released: 2011
MPAA Rating: R
Running Time: 137 minutes
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Clint Eastwood’s latest bad movie is a biopic on the life and crimes of J. Edgar Hoover, the infamous long-time FBI chief. The film has all of the hallmarks of Eastwood’s cinematic turkeys – funereal plotting, miscast performers, a tedious screenplay and cinematography that aims for the artistic but only achieves the artsy.

But “J. Edgar” stands out from the other Eastwood duds because it lacks any element of unintentional humor. The only redeeming feature of Eastwood’s misfires is the joy of some cheap laughs at the expense of the on-screen bumbling: the sheer stupidity that drove “The Rookie” and “Space Cowboys”; Eastwood’s absurd John Huston imitation in “White Hunter, Black Heart”; Sean Penn’s teeth-gnashing performance in “Mystic River,” which seemed like an imitation of Frank Gorshin’s imitation of Kirk Douglas; daughter Alison Eastwood’s woefully incompetent non-star-making turn in “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil”; and Matt Damon’s phony blonde hair and Afrikaans accent in “Invictus.”

Without unintentional laughs to distract the viewer, “J. Edgar” succeeds in boring its audience to death. Leonardo DiCaprio, boasting bad make-up and an accent that has no connection with any specific geographical region, seems to be doing a reprise of his petulant monarch performance from “The Man in the Iron Mask.” DiCaprio’s Hoover is a ridiculous person that plays out his inner struggle with the carefully controlled angst of a daytime soap opera diva – strained line readings and exaggerated emoting that suggests a modicum of suffering amidst wonderfully opulent surroundings and fabulous costumes.

Some controversy has been carefully orchestrated on whether “J. Edgar” falls for the unconfirmed tales of Hoover’s alleged homosexuality. Eastwood and screenwriter Dustin Lance Black drop unsubtle hints that the FBI had a Hoover in the closet, especially in realigning Hoover’s trusted aide Clyde Tolson as a brainless himbo for whom the FBI director had a pronounced obsession. Armie Hammer’s Tolson looks great in tailored suits, but the actor does not seem capable of delivering any of his lines without a indulging in surplus servings of wink-wink/nudge-nudge.

“J. Edgar” also conceives its title character as the worst example of the Oedipus complex, with Hoover in a Stockholm Syndrome-worthy relationship with his overbearing mother (played by a bored-looking Judi Dench). Naomi Watts is also along for the ride as Hoover’s long-term and long-suffering private secretary.

The film attempts to cover the major aspects of Hoover’s FBI career, but Black’s screenplay has a Wikipedia-level of shallowness that reduces complex issues and complicated personalities into cartoonish situations. The weird thing here is that “J. Edgar” frames its presentation as the elderly FBI chief dictating his memoirs. “It’s time to tell my side of the story!” DiCaprio’s Hoover exclaims before he launches into admitting that his life was a turgid tale of egomania, megalomania, unhealthy devotion to his mother, open admission of blackmail and other criminal acts in the pursuit of justice, racism and barely-contained homosexuality.

“J. Edgar” is not only among the year’s worst films, but it marks the rock bottom of Eastwood’s output as director. 



Posted on November 27, 2011 in Reviews by
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5 Comments on "J. EDGAR"

  1. Ryan M on Sun, 27th Nov 2011 7:30 pm 

    yeowch! as much as I hate Oliver Stone, he would have given some balls to this project. A biopic about J. Edgar Hoover sounds like a doomed idea from the get-go. But if you’re gonna try it…?

    First off, J. Edgar Hoover was a BAD guy. No one cares about the “grey area” that exists between good and evil or the possibility that Hoover was a sympathetic, misunderstood character. Dustin Lance Black’s moronic thesis that Hoover’s ills were the result of latent homosexual desires and mommy-issues is absolute hearsay and total hubris. And while sexuality may be of paramount importance in Black’s world, Hoover’s world was far more interesting. It’s entirely possible to write a good screenplay in which the main character is dislikable. Please refer to Shakespeare’s “Richard III” or Mario Puzo’s “The Godfather.” In these stories, we see the dynamic world that surrounds these powerful men. In “J. Edgar,” we tag along with the villain during a tedious (2+ hours??) series of “and-then-this-happeneds.” I’m willing to give Eastwood and Black the benefit of the doubt: they’re not stupid; they just got lazy.

    I also agree that DiCaprio is all wrong for this movie. He did his damnedest with a crap script, a daunting role and laissez faire directing, but he simply doesn’t know his limits. He’s an intense and often very brilliant actor, but he doesn’t have great “range.” DiCaprio’s wheelhouses are movies like “Departed” or “Gangs of New York” where he just plays a pissed-off version of himself. Academy voters may appreciate his fearlessness in “J. Edgar” but the rest of us don’t care and would prefer a kick-ass story.

    And don’t get me started on that make-up. Holy crap, maybe Eastwood failed to read the script but didn’t he see THAT? A few scenes reminded me of those scary ‘Little Britain’ skits. To the makeup artists on “J. Edgar”: Don’t quit your day job. Oh, that IS your day job, you say? Aw, oops.


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  2. Jeppe on Mon, 28th Nov 2011 12:59 am 

    And yet his recent films have been and are a lot better and interesting than the majority of the other mainstream films that are put out there.


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  3. saw see on Mon, 28th Nov 2011 1:10 am 

    —Eastwood’s been delivering skilfuly demoralizing,
    POST America ‘friendly’ work for decades now.

    His ‘latest’ Hoover and ‘Star is Born’ retreads
    only confirm this pattern.

    Meanwhile, Eastwood himself, a Korea era draftee
    who NEVER saw Korea, has BALKED the 20th –30th -40th
    –50th -and now 60th Anniversaries of the awesomely
    relevant, Globalism–EUGENICS and RED China ‘unfriendly’

    ———————KOREAN WAR————————

    Tutns out Dirty Harry’s a COP OUT——


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  4. Joanne on Sun, 11th Dec 2011 12:48 pm 

    I found this review to be an utter bore, pretentious and hackneyed. I give this review two thumbs down.


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  5. Thomas Kerr on Wed, 28th Dec 2011 2:45 pm 

    On the whole, a good review though it does drop in some non-relevant comments. I guess that I will just go and see for myself as this flic seems to have divided the reviewers as much as the subject did.
    What on earth is ‘saw see’ about? John Wayne never saw combat but still made some mythic films about the American West and its strife.
    David Niven left Hollywood in 1939 and was “employed by his Majesties government for 6 years”, eventually becoming a Major in the Royal Commandos. But the only warflic which sticks to his name is the Guns of Navarone. (Ah, but he wasn’t American.)
    So kindly separate political opinions from artistic judgement.
    Cheers
    TKerr


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