Review - J. Edgar

 J. Edgar (2011), R, 137 minutes - It has been a while since I last updated the good old blog here (about 3 months as I was so kindly reminded by a  former co-worker/blog follower), and as anyone who knows my taste in films, what better way to return to posting than by reviewing Clint Eastwood's most recent directorial effort?

J. Edgar is Eastwood's biopic about J. Edgar Hoover, long time Director of the FBI (and architect of the FBI as we know it today).  While the film covers Hoover's life from shortly before he took the position with the FBI up until his death, it really is more of a character study of his relationships with family and co-workers as well as how he viewed himself.  If you are looking for an action filled story about major crime busts that Hoover oversaw during his years in office, you won't find it here.  What you will find is a film that shows how his own paranoia about just about anyone and everyone led to trailblazing improvements in how the FBI operated (including forensic studies of crimes), even if they were ethically questionable at times.  That same paranoia caused him to trust only a select few that he allowed into his inner circle, and made him quite difficult to deal with at that.  

Of course, this is a biopic about a man who died in 1972, so one can only guess at how accurate the portrayal is.  Along with Hoover's nature of keeping personal secret files on just about anyone that he thought could one day threaten his position make you wonder if we'll ever know what truly happened.  That being said, the performances put forth by both Leonardo DiCaprio (as Hoover) and Armie Hammer (as Clyde Tolson, Hoover's long time right hand man...and lover?) are excellent.  Naomi Watts has an increasingly diminishing (but quite important) role as Hoover's personal secretary and early romantic interest, Helen Gandy.  There are also nice cameos by Dame Judi Dench (J. Edgar's mother Annie Hoover), Burn Notice's Jeffrey Donovan (Robert F. Kennedy), Josh Lucas (Charles Lindbergh), and Christopher Shyer (Richard Nixon).

Because it focuses more on Hoover's personal relationships than it does cracking down on crime (aside from the portrayal of the Lindbergh baby kidnapping case), it has a tendency to be a slow moving film.  That isn't to say that it isn't worth checking out - just a warning for anyone like myself who may have tried to avoid spoilers and are expecting at least a little bit more action.  J. Edgar isn't Clint Eastwood's strongest directorial outing, but it does give us about as good a look into the live of J. Edgar Hoover as anyone could expect to get, and the performances by DiCaprio and Hammer make it worth the price of admission and may even garner Oscar attention.


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