THIS IS MY ACTING FACE
So...J. Edgar. In theory, a cool idea as he is a very polarizing political figure. On one hand, the man helped to revolutionize forensics, fingerprinting and how we catch criminals. He also pretty much rebuilt the FBI from the ground up into what it is today. He was also vain, paranoid and brain-splodingly crazy. So there's that.
What I'm saying is this is a fascinating man who wielded a ton of power for somewhere in the neighborhood of fifty years. There's a lot of gold to mine here. Maybe too much, because Clint Eastwood seems to have gotten a little overwhelmed and the movie staggers along like the bloated corpse of J. Edgar himself, which incidentally Eastwood lets the camera linger lovingly on until you somehow become inured to the sight of a pale, geriatric gut.
Like this, only pale, shirtless and dead. Fun times.
Ok, see I wanted to like this movie. And there is a lot to like. The tone is great, the colors are muted and it's all very immersive. Dicaprio is fantastic as Hoover. He portrays Hoover as a man with the best intentions, who is dorky and awkward and just wants to show everyone that he knows what he's doing with the FBI. He's got a little-man syndrome going on (literally, he has his secretary heighten his desk so he can look down on people while sitting behind it). He is able to ricochet from smarmy ass-butt to vulnerable puppy with ease and believability, even when he's under layers of poochy old man makeup.
Emote harder! It's not getting through the makeup!
Anyway, he's definitely up for an Oscar nom as the role requires face putty, a funny accent and is of a real person. Everyone else is good too. Naomi Watts is his loyal secretary, sticking by Hoover's side longer than most people have been alive. Dame Judi Dench plays the Giver of Mommy Issues, imbuing young Hoover with all sorts of horrible insecurities and complexes that eventually lead up to a ridiculous scene where, after she dies, Edgar goes all Norman Bates and puts on one of her dresses. It is intensely melodramatic and over the top and Dicaprio's ability is the only thing that makes it kind of work.
"You're going to grow up to be the most extra-special little man the world has ever seen, because mommy says so. Also, mommy says she better not see you carrying on with dudes, because then mommy will have to get the stick"
You see, at the heart of the movie, which focuses briefly and haphazardly on everything from the missing Lindbergh baby to the Kennedy assassination to Martin Luther King Jr, there is a love story. Edgar is super awkward in general but it is at it's most intense around ladies. He despairs. Then one day, he meets Clyde.
And since no human on earth is capable of resisting Armie Hammer, Edgar falls hard. He makes Clyde his right-hand man and a relationship is subtly hinted at and it's very sweet. Edgar cares for Clyde but is too afraid to really say it, to put a name to what he's feeling, and Clyde is pretty ok with this, never forcing Edgar outside his comfort zone...until it becomes less and less subtle and they have a fistfight and kiss and it's really kinda hot. But it only happens once. Until they're old men. Oh well.
But anyway, so there's the love story but it's BURIED under a pile of storylines that literally go nowhere. Eastwood takes all these ideas and sets them all up very nicely and then just leaves them there. I get that Hoover had a very long career but just pick a bit, focus on it, and build a goddamn story around it! But no, it meanders and drags and makes a two hour and fifteen minute long movie feel four hours long. And then it commits the sin of the five different endings. So you're bored and it's just dragging and you're desperately going "well, this is a solid place to end it, they just did this montage and-nope. Ok, well he had his goodbye with Clyde, so now it'll-nope. Dammit. Ok, well he's dead now, so they clearly have to-"
So, the good: the acting is great, the various scenes, even though they add up to nothing, are well done. All the actors turn in fantastic performances, especially Leonardo Dicaprio and Armie Hammer, and especially as poor Armie tries so hard to offset his horrid old man make-up.
Guys, seriously? Armie Hammer is TWENTY-SIX YEARS OLD, there is no way you can make this look credible
the bad: IT DOESN'T DO ANYTHING, IT HAS NO FOCUS, IT DRAGS LIKE A LEGLESS ORPHAN AND LOSES ALL SUBTLETY HALFWAY THROUGH AND BY THE END YOU WANT TO CHEW YOUR TOES OFF TO RELIEVE THE TEDIUM.
Ahem. Yes. So, it's a hard to recommend it, but it's still pretty much the best movie in theaters right now. Or you could go see Jack and Jill.
Better go with J. Edgar. It nets two and half catapults out of five. This is Sugary Cynicism, off the record, of course. 'Night!
Mama Hoover: "I'd rather have a dead son, than a daffodil son" yeah I'm sure that won't screw him up in the long-term. Not at all.