¨Do I kill everything that I love? ¨
J. Edgar is Clint Eastwood`s latest biopic that tells the story of Edgar Hoover`s life and how he created the FBI during a span of over fifty years. Hoover was a very controversial character, some people hated him and others loved him, but Eastwood doesn’t take any sides; he simply allows us to judge his work for ourselves showing us the good and the bad. Hoover didn’t have an idealistic life either; Eastwood also focuses on his personal life and exposes some of his secrets. The film was written by Dustin Lance Black, who also wrote the Oscar nominated biopic: Milk, but unlike in that movie, this time the story suffers from a very slow pace. The weakest thing about J. Edgar is truly its pacing. The subject matter is just so wide that the movie fails to focus on just one particular detail and tries to mash everything together with a series of numerous flashbacks. There were some very interesting moments during the story, but they were just too far spread out and most of the film was really a bore to sit through. I wish the film would have focused more on just one or two aspects instead of trying to include such a broad range. By trying to show everything that went on in Edgar`s life, we truly end up not knowing much. This movie suffers from the typical case of trying to say so much that you end up not saying anything at all. The film should of focused on a much shorter time period (let’s say the Lindbergh case for example which was probably the most interesting part of the film) instead of covering all the specific details. The highlights of this film however are the performance from Leonardo DiCaprio as Hoover, and the art direction which is just beautiful (like in every Eastwood film).
As for the story, the movie begins with an older version of J. Edgar Hoover (Leonardo DiCaprio) narrating his memories to one of the agents and telling him to write his memoirs. It was during the communist hunt that J. Edgar found the opportunity to tighten his grip in the law enforcement agency and make important arrests after several communist revolutions began taking place across several major cities in the US. Hoover was completely dedicated to his job and slowly began building what today we know as the FBI. He had a very awkward social behavior, and very few friends. They called him Speedy for the way he talked, and he was very close to his mother (Judi Dench), to whom he looked up too all the time for advice. He trusted very few people, one of them was his personal secretary Helen Gandy (Naomi Watts) and the other his right hand man and personal assistant, Agent Clyde Tolson (Armie Hammer), with whom he had a secret love affair despite the fact that he tried to deny it and hide it. After the witch hunt was over with, Hoover`s attention shifted to arresting important gangsters and mafia groups, and in doing so he slowly began to build the Bureau. He had secret personal files on every United States president he served under, whether it was Roosevelt or Kennedy. The true highlight of the film and the turning point for the Agency`s autonomy came with the Lindbergh case which received a lot of media attention after a child was kidnapped from his own home. Hoover used this case to build prestige for the Bureau and create a fingerprint database of every citizen in order to solve crimes easier. He built the Federal Bureau of Investigation and this is how he did it.
One of the most distracting things about J. Edgar is the makeup. Some of the actors really looked bad when they had to play older versions of themselves (Armie Hammer above all). They should`ve stuck with hiring older actors to play those roles because the makeup really didn’t work. It was awful. Leonardo DiCaprio does save this movie however, from being bad thanks to a great performance. He deserved an Oscar nomination, but I guess the film just wasn’t good enough. Armie Hammer also was great in his supporting role, but his makeup when playing an older version of himself distracted us from his true performance. The rest of the supporting cast just doesn’t have enough time to shine on screen, with the exception of Judi Dench who is as brilliant as usual. Naomi Watts did have plenty of screen time, but she really didn’t have a memorable performance. I`d have to say that J. Edgar is one of Eastwood`s weakest films, but I am still a huge fan of his work and wish him the best in his upcoming projects. The subject matter in this film is interesting, but the pacing is just poorly done. I recommend it only for DiCaprio or Eastwood fans although I wouldn’t be watching this film a second time.