Review: J. Edgar

April 17, 2012, 10:02 am
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There are few things in this life that are locks: Stirring speeches set to images of utter despair in Michael Bay movies, Brad Pitt biting his lower lip a minimum of once per scene and Justin Timberlake owning his role utterly failing as a leading man. Add another to the list: Leonardo DiCaprio being squarely in the Oscar mix come February.

His portrayal of the man that built the FBI in J. Edgar (complete with brown contact lenses) is nothing short of astonishing. That said, John Voight is equally brilliant playing the elder Edgar - hold up, that was DiCaprio?!? The man is God incarnate.

The movie plays through the eyes of John Edgar Hoover himself, delivering his account of his meteoric rise to the top to a litany of dictation-takers. The moment one doesn't answer Hoover's questions to his liking - replaced. 

Hoover's life was wholly influenced by two people: his ironhanded mother (another Oscar-nom, Judi Dench) and right-hand man Clyde Tolson (the hat trick of Oscar-noms, Armie Hammer); the exploration of those two relationships are the very core of J. Edgar

Much has been made of Hoover's private life and how it would be portrayed in the film, let's put it this way, writer Dustin Lance Black (Milk) has a very distinct take. Hoover and Tolson's close relationship is not just explored, it's exposed. We are clearly lead to believe that Hoover was a closeted homosexual, even if he never "acted" on it. That interpretation is what's going to be at the heart of the inevitable debates over just how accurate J. Edgar is.

With a runtime of 150 minutes, the film is plagued by some meandering moments but when you attempt to pack a historical figure's life into one parcel like director Clint Eastwood has so adroitly done - in a film shoot of 39 days no less - it's a prodigious task to prevent. 

Regardless of how you may feel about the film's vision of Hoover's private life, you have to respect J. Edgar for the conviction of its depiction. Very much like the resolve of the despotic man it so vividly portrays.

Grade: B

It was many moons ago in a darkened theater that my love of cinema took root as I snuck in to see my first R-rated film, Blade Runner. The futuristic vision that Ridley Scott unleashed on the screen was simply soul-expanding — spiritual even. From that moment, my mission to have that kind of magic strike again began in earnest. My hope is to be able to shine a light on films that may just have that kind of effect on you — films that may be lesser known, but not lesser in impact. 
- Erick Weber

Final Cut Scoring System
99-95% Opening night
94-90% Opening weekend
89-86% In theaters
85-83% On Demand
82-80% Netflix/Redbox
79-75% If desperate
74-70% If dozing off
69-65% If intoxicated
64-60% If comatose
Below 60% If brain dead

Erick's reviews
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