Even wearing his mom’s clothes, Leo is still the man.
Leonardo DiCaprio stars in this riveting biopic as J. Edgar Hoover, the longtime FBI director as notorious for his overzealous methods of law enforcement as for the rumors regarding his cross-dressing and close relationship with protégé Clyde Tolson (Armie Hammer).
J. Edgar Hoover is a dude I know about and it’s cool to finally see someone bring all of his crazy myths and legends up on film. The problem is that I wish it was as good of a film as I was imagining.
Director Clint Eastwood knows how to direct an emotional and compelling story, and he brings that to this film here with a great deal of moments where it shows J. Edgar not as a genius, but more of in an negative light, which is something you barely ever see in biopics. He’s a very sad dude that has terrible problems of paranoia, controlling everything, and trying to get all of the attention for himself. It’s hard to imagine a film that would basically talk ish on its subject but to be honest, this guy was a nut-case if a smart one at that.
Another element to this film that everybody was buzzing about before it came out was how apparently they would be talking about J. Edgar’s sexuality. The film does not exploit this by any means and I think handles it very delicately because it has a lot of the subtle touches that the film is trying to show and probably the best and more emotional scenes of this film actually have something to do with that gay-love angle. It’s finally great to see a big Hollywood film with a lot of talent in it, so able to actually show homosexuality without hating or making fun of it.
The problem with this film is that even though there are moments where this film clicks, other times it just plain and simply misses. One of the problems with the film is that it’s story is told through a very-old Hoover talking to numerous ghost writers, telling his side of the story to almost everything in his life, and this isn’t the most original idea but it’s not such a bad one either. However, sometimes they would go back-and-forth between the past and present time, which not only became annoying but also a major take-away from the film considering that the story jumps around so much, we can never fully get ourselves into one without going to the other one. I think if they told this film from Hoover being young and then watching him as time progresses, then the story would have been a lot better.
Another major problem is that I feel writer Dustin Lance Black emphasized so well on the whole homosexual-angle that when it came to telling the story of Hoover, he kind of lost his way by trying to go for too much without any connection. The film almost feels like a “Best of J. Edgar Hoover” series where we see all of the famous cases that he was apart of, all the controversies, and all the rumors, but we never actually know how the film wants us to feel about all of this and just exactly what this film is trying to say. I felt a little bit dragged on especially by how slow the story was and I think that it gets very jumbled with the actual story of Hoover, except for his fancy of women’s clothing.
My last problem with this film is the fact that it is about 2 hours and 17 minutes long which in some cases, isn’t so bad, but here I felt like I was dying a slow-and-somewhat painful death. The film has about 5 endings and I couldn’t help but look at my cell-phone every 30 seconds to check what time it is and to see when this film was actually going to end. I wouldn’t have had such a problem with the time-limit if the film didn’t lag along at a snail’s-pace and over-stayed its welcome by at least 20 minutes.
It’s a real shame though that this film couldn’t have done any better with critics, because it really could have done Leonardo DiCaprio‘s amazing performance as the man himself, some justice. At first, I didn’t know if I was going to be able to get past the thick-accent and the obvious make-up, but somehow DiCaprio makes this very troubled person, an almost larger-than-life persona who totally sinks into this character and after awhile I stopped seeing him as Jack Dawson and more of Hoover. He won’t win, but I’d like to see him at least get an Oscar nomination for this.
Armie Hammer is also exceptionally well as Clyde Tolson, Hoover’s right-hand man. Hammer has a great look to him where he always seems like he’s one step ahead of everybody he is with and throughout the whole film he uses that to his advantage. The scenes these two share together are great and you can really feel the chemistry and almost sexual tension between them both build-up as the film goes on. Their scenes together were the best mostly because they were believable, and handled in such a way that it didn’t seem shoehorned but more of natural when you have two guys who are with each other all the time, with some very dark secrets.
Oh, I lied, I had one more problem with this film as well. The make-up looks exceptionally well on Leo because he really seems like how old-man Hoover would look like, but Hammer is a different story. The guy’s make-up design looks more like a burn victim mixed with Eric Stoltz from ‘Mask’. It’s very weird to see and Hammer’s performance as older Tolson isn’t any better considering he does these random twitches and jitters that apparently every old man that Armie Hammer has ever seen does.
Consensus: The film has its fair share of flaws: it’s story goes from one place to another, it’s too long, and the make-up is exceptionally bad. However, J. Edgar features great performances from the cast, especially a compelling DiCaprio, as well as a certain love angle that feels right with this material and makes this seem more emotionally connected, when other times it seemed distant.