Tuesday, 31 January 2012

J. Edgar

Clint Eastwood, Leonardo DiCaprio, January release, biopic. All of these things scream Oscar bait but disappointingly the film doesn’t deliver.

Based on the life of J. Edgar Hoover and starring Leonardo DiCaprio in the lead role, director Clint Eastwood has delivered a solid if unremarkable film that skirts around the edges of much of Hoover’s life without delving deeply into any facet of it.

I found the film quite dull which it shouldn’t have been. Hoover was the head of the FBI for nearly forty years, serving under eight Presidents and responsible for introducing much of the scientific methods used to solve crimes today. He was also widely rumoured to be homosexual and that his long term second in command was, in fact, also his lover. Hoover also had secret files on thousands of high ranking political figures which he was able to use for his and the FBI’s own personal gain. With all that to work with it is perhaps surprising that the film is as boring as it is.

DiCaprio delivers a convincing performance as Hoover although one is sometimes reminded of his Howard Hughes in The Aviator, a vastly superior film. Armie Hammer, last seen playing twins in The Social Network plays Clyde Tolson with authority and is only let down by some dodgy prosthetics in scenes set in later life. Despite this, I felt that he played the older Tolson particularly well. Naomi Watts is given little to do as Helen Gandy, Hoover’s long time secretary but again excels playing the older version of Gandy. There is recognisable affection between Hoover and Tolson which is most obviously shown by Hammer who provides just enough bodhi to show that he has strong feelings for Hoover.

It is perhaps because we know so little about Hoover’s private life that the film is unable to give us many answers as to why he was the man he was. There are hints that his mother, played by Judi Dench, forced him to attempt to become as powerful as possible and her disdain of homosexuality gives some insight as to the secrecy of his personal life but the film is very balanced and unable to get off the fence. One scene in which Hoover wears his late mother’s dress and necklace could be viewed as either a way for him to grieve, to finally let his sexuality out or a combination of both.

Overall the film has a decent stab at portraying the life of one of the most powerful and controversial figures of the 20th Century but because of who Hoover was and because of who was behind the film, I expected more.

Friends, colleagues, lovers?

No comments:

Post a Comment