J. Edgar (1/10)
by Tony Medley
Run time 137 minutes.
Not for children.
Clint Eastwood and Leonardo
DiCaprio are to be commended for wanting to make an old-fashioned
biopic, educating people on an American legend. But did they have to
make it so long, boring, and uninformative?
Purportedly the true story of
the founder of the FBI, J. Edgar Hoover (DiCaprio), Hoover is portrayed
as a sexually ambiguous, speechifying, cantankerous bore. In fact,
DiCaprio makes so many monotonous speeches in this thing that I'm
surprised he didn't grow a granuloma on his vocal cords.
Not only does Eastwood show no
familiarity with pace, but the music he wrote for this makes the film
even slower than it would be normally. The wordy, actionless script
(Dustin Lance Black), doesn't help Clint much.
The film shows Hoover to be a
loner with high moral expectations of others, but with few personal
relationships, except one very close friend, Clyde Tolson (Armie
Hammer). While the film paints Tolson as clearly gay, it makes it fairly
plain that the relationship between him and Hoover was not physical.
Making the film even harder to
watch, instead of telling a straight biography of Hoover, Eastwood jumps
back and forth among time periods without so much as an explanation. The
only way we know that the time has changed is that Hoover looks older or
younger. One minute he's looking for the Lindbergh kidnapper and then
the very next scene he's talking with Bobby Kennedy (Jeffrey Donovan).
It's confusing and unnecessary.
It is also maddeningly
uninformative. It's pretty well known that Hoover did not like the
Kennedys and, in fact, hated Bobby Kennedy. There is not an iota of a
clue as to why. In fact there's no why about anything anywhere. Hoover
remains as much an enigma after seeing the film as he was before going
Naomi Watts plays Hoover's
longtime secretary, Helen Gandy, and Judy Dench plays his mother, with
whom J. Edgar was extraordinarily close. The film alludes to the
vicious rumor that Hoover was a cross-dresser, but doesn't spend any
time on it and seems to reject it, but it is ambiguous. Both give good
performances. In fact, all the performances are very good, especially
DiCaprio's. It's not the acting that makes this such a disappointment.
Then there's the
cinematography (Tom Stern). It's shot in washed-out colors. Is there a
reason? Don't ask me.
Wait, there's more! The makeup
(Tania McComas) is sometimes so bad it appears camp, especially when
Tolson ages. He looks like a freak from a horror movie.
The first hour is agonizingly
slow. In fact, except for about five minutes when Eastwood deals with
Martin Luther King, Jr., this entire film is a drag (no pun intended).
November 2, 2011