J. Edgar (2011)

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J. Edgar: Directed by Clint Eastwood. With Leonardo DiCaprio, Josh Hamilton, Geoff Pierson, Cheryl Lawson. J. Edgar Hoover, powerful head of the F.B.I. for nearly fifty years, looks back on his professional and personal life.

“J. Edgar (2011)u003cbr/u003eu003cbr/u003eThis is a particular kind of movie–the based on fact biopic–done with great attention to period accuracy. If thatu0026#39;s whatu0026#39;s important, getting a bit of American history into a vivid big screen format, then this works pretty well. On top of that, Leonardo DiCaprio is excellent, very professional.u003cbr/u003eu003cbr/u003eBut u0026quot;J. Edgaru0026quot; not a terrific movie. If a movie is meant to be gripping and moving and beautiful and fun and all those things, this is none of those. It isnu0026#39;t boring or tepid or clumsy or insulting–but not being those things isnu0026#39;t exactly a compliment. u003cbr/u003eu003cbr/u003eAnd the reasons for this are clear. Mainly thereu0026#39;s the format. Between Dustin Black and Clint Eastwood a decision was made to u0026quot;tellu0026quot; the story by means of the character, FBI director J. Edgar Hoover, literally telling the story to a typist. This is a dry and painful way of any kind of drama. Itu0026#39;s even a boring way to teach a class, and sometimes you get the feeling weu0026#39;re being u0026quot;taughtu0026quot; things about our history we need to know. u003cbr/u003eu003cbr/u003eBe careful, if you watch only half the movie, youu0026#39;ll be filled with misconceptions that the movie itself corrects, in the last few moments during a final important conversation. That problem of course is a new kind of u0026quot;unreliable narrator,u0026quot; since the story is being told by the protagonist himself. And no one is very honest, truly, in an autobiography. In a way that makes the movie the most interesting it can be. Iu0026#39;m also not sure what the director and writer really feel about Hooveru0026#39;s sexual orientation, at least as it applied to his doing his job.u003cbr/u003eu003cbr/u003eThere are some familiar Eastwood slants on content that might irk a few of you familiar with his politics. For example, he makes very public his appreciation for civil rights and equality, but in a way thatu0026#39;s so showy you begin to suspect the motivation (that he believes what he preaches but he also wants you to like him for it). But then he also has little to say about the heavy handed FBI (and pre-FBI) days when lots of innocent people got followed and railroaded and jailed and worse. The mood is set that in those old days things were different and we really needed a megalomaniac at the FBI to keep this darned country safe from the Commies. Something like that.u003cbr/u003eu003cbr/u003eAs a drama, which is maybe the secondary consideration, the plot moves between a present day 1960s crisis (between the Kennedy and Nixon years) and the early days. It flips back and forth a lot (too much for me) and keeps DiCapriou0026#39;s narration flowing right through a lot of it in part to hold it together. The result is fragmented as a story, and stilted as a dramatic flow.u003cbr/u003eu003cbr/u003eJust a heads up on the format and the flow. Again, if itu0026#39;s content you want, and you can enjoy the way it gets cobbled together, thereu0026#39;s a lot of stuff here to sort out.”

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