Monday, 14 November 2011

J. Edgar Review

The problem with biopics is that they are, by nature, episodic.  Only the very special ones can use this to their advantage and, somehow, not appear to be just stringing along a series of anecdotes from a figure's past.  J. Edgar, while not as episodic as, say, The People vs. Larry Flynt, still falls short of being able to rise above and be a great movie.  It is unfortunate because Hoover's story is one that is quite enigmatic and has never really been told.  But I think the fact that we actually know very little about his private life hinders a movie about his life from being one grand story.  All we really have are the anecdotes.  Clint Eastwood tries to overcome this by jumping between Hoover's earlier and later years.  Instead of losing the episodic feel, all he does is disjoint the story and ruin any flow that may have been building up.  The result is a bored viewer.

I have no idea if this movie is accurate.  In fact, I don't know if anybody could really tell you.  There's so much private stuff displayed that would never have been made public that makes the film scream "hearsay."  On the other hand, there are also a lot of other stories that would have been public record so those will have some accuracy to them.  But given the fact that I believe Hoover was an egomaniacal paranoid little man, who knows what is truth when he is involved?  So you can really throw any expectation for truth out the window with this one.  Instead, they try to depict Hoover's transformation from an ironically radical view of radicalism to over abuse of power.  This, in itself, would have made for a very good movie.  But then they try to intertwine it with his personal struggles with his sexuality and mommy issues.  That, on its own, would have made a good movie too.  But, put the two themes together and, again, the flow is ruined.  Nothing in this film grabs the viewer into a consistent story.  Instead, it is about 30 minutes too long.

Now, the technical stuff.  The film is very well shot and lit and is superbly acted.  Both Leonardo DiCaprio and Armie Hammer are terrific.  This is especially true of Hammer after Tolson's health starts to fail.  However, the great acting is overshadowed by some really, really bad makeup jobs.  Half the time the actors look like more like Eric Stoltz in Mask than ageing men (especially Hammer).  And some of the casting choices were a bit odd.  Jeffrey Donovan made a convincing Bobby Kennedy.  But I'm pretty sure that they just picked the first guy off the street with bushy eyebrows to play Nixon.  I know those characters are minor but I believe a biopic needs to make the extra effort on those things.

Don't see it.  It just isn't worth it.

No comments:

Post a Comment