Wednesday, November 16, 2011
11-13-11: "I like to wear women's clothes." Well, allegedly.
J. EDGAR (2011) *** 137 mins. D: Clint Eastwood. Leonardo DiCaprio, Naomi Watts, Armie Hammer, Judi Dench.
J. Edgar Hoover recounts his life-long career as the Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Clint Eastwood's biopic blurs the line between fact and fiction and leaves the viewer to decide what is true and what is conjecture. Much like Larry Cohen's "The Private Files of J. Edgar Hoover" this film serves as a "Cliff Notes" version of Hoover's life. The film spends plenty of time with the Lindbergh case and follows Hoover as he tries to legitimize the work of the Bureau by trying to solve the crime. It takes a slightly ambiguous approach to his alleged homosexuality and cross-dressing that again leaves it to the viewer to decide for themselves if he was or wasn't. Unfortunately, it does at times lay it on a bit thick to sway towards the former.
DiCaprio does a fine job playing Hoover through the years. Judi Dench has a brief but memorable turn as his mother. As for the rest of the cast, they perform well yet the roles weren't all that memorable.
The film moves at a leisurely pace and at times did feel a bit long yet kept my interest. The structure frequently jumps between the present, the 1970s, and the past as Hoover recounts another moment in history.
Like Cohen's film it's a decent biopic but suffers from too much grey area between stating the facts and twisting them for entertainment value. You get impressions of the man but you never really get to know him which is unfortunate for such a complex man as Hoover seemed to be.