Clint Eastwood (Gran Torino) directs Leonardo DiCaprio as J. Edgar Hoover, the face of law enforcement in America for almost 50 years. Now playing nationwide, click for movie times and trailer.
Leonardo DiCaprio’s portrayal of FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover has been rightly acclaimed, but as compelling as his performance may be, DiCaprio isn’t able to single-handedly save what is in most other respects an unsatisfying film. Clint Eastwood’s direction lacks focus, most notably in the film’s pacing which makes J. Edgar’s two-hour-plus running time feel even longer than it is, and the quasi-conservative 81-year-old Eastwood proves one half of an exceptionally odd couple directing from a script by Milk’s Dustin Lance Black that delves into key rumours that swirled around Hoover.
The outcome is a film that hints at Hoover’s cross-dressing without acknowledging it directly and portrays his unusually close relationship with his male assistant as a chaste love affair, but as with Eastwood’s depiction of Hoover’s many illegalities, seems to walk a too-cautious line about its subject while still trying to titillate.
Whilst Hoover was a complex creature, and a simplistic view would not do the man justice or respect moviegoers, Eastwood’s biopic doesn’t seem to know exactly what it wants to say about him. Complex? Sure. But exactly how and why aren’t adequately fleshed out and Black’s script doesn’t do Eastwood’s staid directorial style any favours in flashing back and forth between narratives unfolding in tandem time periods.
To make matters worse, DiCaprio may convince under old man makeup but Armie Hammer and Naomi Watts look distractingly awful. J. Edgar isn’t going to win any awards for its makeup, that’s for sure, and outside of recognition for DiCaprio the film’s unlikely to earn any plaudits.