Sunday, November 27, 2011


J EDGAR is Clint Eastwood's movie about Hoover, starring Leonardo DiCaprio as the former head of the FBI.

The movie is somewhat of a mess, with huge, huge problems, yet I still found it an interesting watch. The casting of Leo is perhaps the film's biggest problem; he just doesn't have the chops to pull off a performance with such complex requirements. He has to play Hoover over a period of almost 50 years, and he is not good at playing much older than he is in real life. This is also a scripting problem; the movie constantly cuts back and forth between old Hoover dictating his memoirs and young Hoover as memories. This is a very awkward structure that makes the film feel even longer than its two and a half hour running time.

In addition, I have no idea what accent DiCaprio was trying to do. At first it sounded southern, then it seemed to slowly migrate to the northeast. (Hoover spent his whole life in the DC area, he did not have much of a regional accent.) It's also odd that his mother has an English accent even though in real life she was Swedish-American.

Adding insult to injury, Leo's aging makeup is distractingly terrible. Both he and Armie Hammer have makeup so bad they look like they should be in a Star Wars film. Naomi Watts, on the other hand, aged gracefully, although her character could easily have been eliminated from the movie.

I rarely mention the cinematography in a film, but this film looked terrible. Some scenes were so dark I couldn't tell which characters were in them. There were also some historical incongruities in the music used.

Yet I did still like the film. At about the halfway point, my wife and I took a break from watching the screener disc and walked the dog. This turned out to be fortuitous, as the cool aired woke me up enough to pay attention for the rest of the film. I've always felt that movies that are much over two hours should have an intermission in them. In reality, this movie could have easily had a good half hour excised from the first half and it would be a much better film. But the intermission worked well.

The second half flows a lot more smoothly. Watts' character is mostly absent, and much more focus goes into specific cases (notably the Lindbergh kidnapping), and into his relationship with the Armie Hammer character. This part of the story is inherently the most interesting as it has never been told before. Hammer gives another Oscar-worthy performance (last year he was the Winklevii in THE SOCIAL NETWORK). His presence alone is enough reason to watch the whole film.
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