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Saturday, April 28, 2012

J. Edgar (2011)

The controversial J. Edgar Hoover headed the Federal Bureau of Investigation for almost fifty years. Director Clint Eastwood's attempts to cram those fifty years encompassing everything from the kidnapping of the Lindbergh baby, the prohibition gangster wars, Bolshevik anarchy in the 1920s, the Kennedy era, the civil rights era to the election of Richard Nixon etc. in two hours. It can't be done and the end result plays out like a "J. Edgar's greatest hits" compilation. To Eastwood's credit, he does attempt to provide some insight into Hoover's complex and complicated psyche and Oscar winning screenwriter Dustin Lance Black's script is serviceable. But it's just not enough to provide a satisfying picture. Oh it's eminently watchable to be sure but it can't disguise its liabilities. And did Eastwood forget to pay his light bill? This is literally one of the darkest films I've ever seen and I kept wanting to cry out, "Turn on the lights, Clint!". I had eyestrain trying to watch what was going on. Perhaps the dim lighting was necessary to disguise Leonardo DiCaprio's old age make up which looks artificial. As for his performance, DiCaprio is quite good despite being, dare I say it, miscast. The intense emotional relationship (there's no indication in the film that it was ever sexual beyond a kiss) between Hoover and his right hand man Clyde Tolson (wonderfully played by Armie Hammer) is handled beautifully and forms the film's core. With Naomi Watts as Hoover's career long secretary Helen Gandy, Judi Dench as Hoover's mother, Dermot Mulroney, Jeffrey Donovan, Josh Lucas, Ken Howard, David Clennon and Lea Thompson.

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