I’m surprised that a movie about J. Edgar Hoover hasn’t been done until now. He’s a significant figure in American history and was involved with many of the largest historical figures of that time. This biopic wants to tell a story of a man’s personal and professional life that impacted America in multiple ways. J. Edgar takes a look at the life of the long time leader of the FBI.
This movie is boring. It’s dry, bland and it moves too slowly at times. It never allows you to get emotionally involved in the film or the people being portrayed in it. I found it similar to a film that I liked called The Good Shepherd. J. Edgar is about the birth of the FBI and the man behind it, while The Good Shepherd is about the birth of the CIA and uses a fictional character based on the actual creator. They both lacked emotion, but J. Edgar had less of it and a lot less artistry as well.
If I’m going to point out anymore negatives about this movie, I’d have to talk about the fact that they didn’t go as hard as I thought they would on the topics that actually mattered. Instead, they constantly focused on his alleged homosexuality. I can’t say if he was gay or not, but there probably aren’t too many people who could. They put it in the film as being a fact and I don’t think it should have been done like that. Suggesting that he might have been gay without ever answering the question would’ve been the most sensible thing to do.
From what we do know, Hoover did several controversial things. Much of this stuff was illegal and using these aspects of his professional life as the backbone of J. Edgar instead of paying attention to things that might not have happened could have added what was missing. Him willfully ignoring the rise of organized crime for so long should have gotten more attention. The fact that he sought to destroy the Black Panthers and many of their famous white supporters should have been included also. They would have had a difficult time doing that without acknowledging an actor named Clint Eastwood and his alleged affair with actress and Black Panther supporter Jean Seberg. This information (among other alleged affairs) was leaked to the media by the FBI to ruin her public image when they learned of her private support for the Panthers, but the director decided not to include this in the movie for some odd reason.
On the positive side, the acting wasn’t terrible. One of the best performances was from Naomi Watts. I’ve never seen her as much of an actress, but she did a good job. The actors did well when portraying the characters as both younger and older versions of themselves and I can’t say that they were ever really a problem.
Another positive would be the make-up. They did a good job of making the actors look like senior citizens in the scenes where they were portraying the older versions of their characters. DiCaprio’s Hoover looked fairly close to the images that I’ve seen of the man himself. The make-up worked well for everyone except Armie Hammer. It looked like they took a wad of clay and just threw it on the dude’s face. I don’t know how they thought that was acceptable or even passable.
One of the things that can be learned from paying attention to our history is that these people were only human. Some of us look at people in the spotlight as somehow being different, but some of them go around doing things that are viewed as immoral, illegal or just wrong and do their best to hide it. That’s what this film points out to an extent, but it took too much of a safe approach. I love political movies that contain a good amount of drama and that didn’t happen here. I wanted this to be good and was kind of surprised that it wasn’t. J. Edgar is a film that is just there and offers very little quality, personality or style. Because this movie ignores so many of J. Edgar Hoover’s most egregious violations, it never allows itself to be the epic that it could have been.
Director: Clint Eastwood
Film Length: 137 minutes
Release Date: November 9, 2011
Distributor: Warner Bros. Pictures