Posts Tagged ‘j. Edgar’


JEdgarQuad_noBillingGiven the significance of J. Edgar Hoover to very fabric of his country it’s not surprising that he is the subject of a big screen biopic with a-list talent both in front of the camera–Leonardo DiCaprio in the title role and Naomi Watts–and behind–Clint Eastwood. No, what’s surprising is that it to this long. The man credited with creating the modern method of crime investigation died almost four decades ago. It’s almost as though he has hidden files on everyone in Hollywood, stashed away. Waiting…

“J. Edgar” spans fifty years, focusing on its subject’s career and the information he both gathered to use as leverage against his enemies and the secret he guarded which could have ruined his carefully constructed image as America’s top cop. Controversial, enigmatic and tyrannical, the power hungry Hoover used his position to bend the law to its breaking point in the name of reform, patriotism and personal glory. Trusty sidekick and constant companion Clyde Tolson (Armie Hammer) and faithful secretary Helen Gandy (Naomi Watts) assist in Hoover’s efforts to build the FBI, find the Lindbergh baby and discredit Martin Luther King, but this is Hoover’s story, warts and all.

“J. Edgar” is a handsome film. Eastwood brings a classic sensibility to the story, shooting on his now trademarked desaturated film stock, which gives an almost sepia tone to the movie, as though we’re actually looking at footage from years ago. It’s a nice touch that visually establishes a sense of history to go along with the period costumes and sets.

So far, so good. But as J. Edgar himself understood, appearances can be deceiving. Underneath the fine performances–more on those later–and craftsman like filmmaking is… not much. Or too much, depending on your point of view.

Lance Dustin Black’s script is ambitious, covering fifty turbulent years, both politically and personally for Hoover. But as the story jumps from decade to decade, interweaving old and young versions of the characters, you can’t help but wish Black and Eastwood had chosen one aspect of the story and told it well instead of this scattershot approach. It’s a case of too much information and too little insight.

DiCaprio is remarkable–and Oscar worthy–in his ability to convincingly play Hoover over the span of fifty years, although it must be said he is aided by some impressive makeup. Too bad Hammer as Hoover’s right hand man—and possible love interest—Clyde Tolson and Naomi Watts as the ever-faithful secretary Miss. Gandy, aren’t given the same advantage. Hammer, although effective in his role, resembles a burn victim for much of the movie and Watts, with her running eyes and wrinkled visage, a living Dorian Grey portrait.

The relationships between Hoover and, well, everyone, don’t feel genuine and as a result there is no emotional impact when the story could use one. We never get a true sense of why these two faithful companions give over their lives to Hoover, who, at best is a cold, calculating tyrant. Eastwood is clearly trying to create a real person out of Hoover, but having him writhing around on the floor, wearing his mother’s jewelry and dress, is a rather melodramatic way to go about it.

Clint makes the day RICHARD CROUSE METRO Published: November 10, 2011

e3dc01cc60ea70eeffff85bfffffe417I’m tempted to borrow a phrase from MGM to describe the star-studded reception before the first-look screening of J. Edgar on Monday night in midtown Manhattan.

The studio boasted having “more stars than there are in the heavens,” but this wasn’t an MGM party, it was a Warner Bros soirée to celebrate their latest Oscar hopeful, a biopic about the controversial and enigmatic J. Edgar Hoover, who spent five decades as director of the FBI.

To my left 60 Minutes reporter Steve Croft worked the room. In another corner Alan Cummings chatted quietly to friends. David Byrne mixed and mingled and Tower Heist co-star Judd Hirsch snacked on sashimi from the sushi bar.

Behind the food stations framed posters of some of the biggest stars from movie history looked down on the party goers.

They are keepsakes from the Warner Bros legacy; a reminder that the company has making movies for almost as long as there have been movies to make.

Then a real life reminder of that legacy walked into the room. Clint Eastwood, J. Edgar’s director, quietly slipped into the party. Well, as quietly as one of the most iconic movie faces of all time can slip into a room. With him was Leonardo DiCaprio, Armie Hammer (“Not Arm and Hammer, but Armie Hammer,” Eastwood jokes) producer Brian Grazier and Oscar winning screenwriter Dustin Lance Black.

The weight shifts in the room, as though Clint’s star power has a gravitational pull all its own. At eighty-one he’s more weathered than when he made Dirty Harry a household name, but it is impossible to look a him and not have memories of “Go ahead, make my day…” or the Man with No Name character awakened, and everyone at the party feels it.

Inside the screening room he introduces his J. Edgar actors and creative team. After a long list of names he pauses and says, “that takes my memory as far as it will go.” Holding for the laugh, he continues, “I’ve always been curious about J. Edgar Hoover… and I still am.”

That’s it. Like his characters he’s a man of few words. Or maybe it was the hour. It was only eight o’clock but as someone sitting behind me joked, “He only works from nine to five.”

I guess when you’re a legend you can set your own hours.