|Still from J. Edgar|
Clint Eastwood's J. Edgar gives us a glimpse at the little-known private life of a Public Figure who both was celebrated for his achievements in Law Enforcement and also despised for an ethically questionable regime in his near-50 year reign as Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation of the United States.
Leonardo DiCaprio steps-up to the challenge of playing a Man who is tough-as-nails in his all-consuming ambition to establish and protect his own Legacy in America. At the other end of the spectrum however, we see a Paradox. Eastwood portrays Hoover as an Man torn between his relentless drive to please his demanding Mother (Judi Dench), his secret relationship with second-in-line Clyde Tolson (Armie Hammer) and his endless desire to be a Public Hero, which he will go at all lengths to become. Does J. Edgar portray its Hero in a positive light? No, not necessarily. What we get here is an attempt to understand the psyche of an incredibly complex Hero who nobody really ever knew - not his Lover, his trusted Secretary Helen (Naomi Watts) nor Himself for that matter.
We all know Dustin Lance Black's fantastic Screenwriting in 2008's Milk, but even he had his work cut-out for him with the challenge of covering the span of 50 years in the life of someone who in all honesty isn't that likable. As is the case with any Biopic, everything traditionally culminates in a defining moment and despite hinting repeatedly at that to come, J. Edgar hangs anticlimactically. The frequent crisscrossing of time lines instead of punctuating important moments in Hoover's life, somewhat disrupts a natural flow. One moment we see a young, strapping Hoover as Hollywood Starlets are clawing to bed him; the next we doubt his mental well-being in his old age. The most telling moment of all is when Hoover's world unravels late and I found myself feeling apathy versus sympathy and this is unfortunate.
All this being said, DiCaprio's fantastic work cannot go unmentioned as he breathtakingly embodies Hoover's passion and spirit over the span of several decades, essentially carrying much of the Film's weight on his own. Hammer's exciting performance as an unflinchingly loyal Sidekick/Lover to Hoover is a true indication of his talent we saw in The Social Network, him being at the head of Hollywood's new generation of Leading Men. I don't foresee this being a Best Picture contender, but the Lead and Supporting performances here garner some Awards attention.
J. Edgar opens in theatres November 11, 2011 via Warner Bros. Canada and although this is far from Eastwood's best work, the subject matter still is interesting enough to draw a crowd.