Thursday, November 17, 2011

‘J. Edgar’ – Not Eastwood’s best, but still outstanding..

As flawed human beings, our very emotional make-up is about being remembered. For some, it is as simple as wanting people to remember us as a ‘nice guy’ or ‘a beautiful woman’. For others, it is about the legacy they want to leave, it is about the adoration and for those of us doing the actual remembering; it is about all of the shades of grey in the middle.

Clint Eastwood’s latest directorial effort, ‘J. Edgar’, is a study of not only the man that J. Edgar Hoover was, but of the shades of grey in the middle. Even filmed with dusky grey colors, Eastwood and Leonardo DiCaprio (as Hoover) delve deeply into the background and forces that shaped Hoover’s path through life. From a controlling mother, played with exquisite grace by Judi Dench, to a time in our history that shaped not only our lives but our very thoughts and perceptions; we begin to see that Hoover was a deeply conflicted man.

Eastwood commands the film with his usual confident grace. While not as emotionally charged as his previous films, this semi-biopic is fairly straight forward and somewhat cold (for an Eastwood film). While some may argue that it has caused it to be a weaker Eastwood film, I would argue that it’s clinical look and style adds to the voyeuristic feel. DiCaprio is fantastic as the young Hoover and equally fantastic as the older megalomaniac Hoover, even under the age inducing prosthetics. DiCaprio is growing into a solid actor, one that can be counted on to deliver worthy performances, his choices of working with the likes of Eastwood and Scorsese has also added to his growing pedigree.

Screenwriter Dustin Lance Black does a wonderful job taking us through the life of Hoover. This was the man the not only created the FBI, but created the art of finger printing and bought together the first forensic science laboratory.  He was a stumbling nerd who was given great power as a young man, who used that power to not only save a nation but to also to use that power to intimidate to get what he wanted. This is a man who sat through more presidents than any other living appointed official, going to each meeting with a file, knowing full well the next president would give him what he needed.

Perhaps the biggest secret though was his relationship with his right hand man Clyde (Armie Hammer); it is that relationship that causes some of the most conflicting moments in the film as well as some of the most touching. We know (and knew) that J. Edgar Hoover lived his life a lie, he spread lies (when he needed to) and was desperate to stop liars. He was a powerful man who was extremely troubled, with a power that seemed to run unchecked until his death.

If you are looking for the secrets that Hoover held in this film; you will not find them here. Eastwood is smart in keep the secrets to the shadows, instead focusing on the man as well as the performances of DiCaprio, Hammer and Dench. Running over 2 hours in length, the performances are so captivating that you rarely realize the minutes clicking by. While this is not the best Eastwood film, it certainly is a 3 ½ star effort from a director who has the courage to show us that it is not how you are remembered, but how you choose to be remembered.

1 comment:

Dan O. said...

Good review. There are problems with the story mainly because it feels like we are just going through all of these events that happened in Hoover's life, without any real connection or anything. However, DiCaprio's performance is great and Eastwood really does know how to direct any type of film and at least bring out some rich drama with its story even if it may be a bit muddled. Check out my review when you get the chance.