Sunday, November 20, 2011

J Edgar

Movie Name: J. Edgar
Year of Release: 2011
Director: Clint Eastwood
Stars: Leonardo DiCaprio, Naomi Watts, Judi Dench, Armie Hammer, Jeffrey Donovan, Josh Lucas, Dermot Mulroney, Zach Grenier, Ed Westwick, Denis O'Hare, Damon Herriman, Lea Thompson, Christopher Shyer, Josh Hamilton
Genre: Drama
Score out of ten (whole numbers only): 6

Following his previous effort "Hereafter", Clint Eastwood is back, tackling another period piece, much like what he has previously done in "Bird" and "Changeling" to name but a few of his extensive career. "J Edgar" follows episodes of the life of controversial figure, J. Edgar Hoover, one of they key founders of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The film oscillates between showing Hoover in his final days as head of the Bureau (in the early 70s) and when he started his official career (immediately following the end of the First World War). The film also focuses on his relationship with Clyde Tolson, his main deputy with whom he had a very close and intimate relationship, and his volatile personality which made him distort and lie about facts in an attempt to seize more attention to himself.
Clint Eastwood is a director who usually focuses his attention on characters that emerge as reluctant heroes, or people thrown in situations that are overwhelming, but that they eventually overcome. Working with a script from Dustin Lance Black, who wrote the fantastic "Milk" (directed by Gus Van Sant), Eastwood focuses his attention on J Edgar Hoover, a man who is for all intended purposes a divisive figure (and not his usual "hero"). The film is not a traditional biopic, since it focuses on specific cases in his life, namely the Lindbergh baby case, and offers not much insight to who the man really was. The screenplay ends up not probing deeply into the man's life and as such, the film feels like a snapshot seen from a distance. There is no conflict or dramatic peak to a story that is ultimately unrewarding. Leonardo DiCaprio gives another fantastic performance as a lonely man, eager to please his mom, while the always excellent Naomi Watts has little to do with her character. This is a film that could have offered much more but that ultimately feels a bit underwhelming.