Two biopics in one week – yummy. Yes, I know, sarcasm is the lowest form of humour.
“J. Edgar” – or Jedgar, as my friend Tom says, should be everything I want in a quirky film. My beloved Clint Eastwood directs and regular readers will know I am not sound on the wonderful and original Clint, who brings a dissenting voice to all that he does.
Except Hoover? The FBI? The people who make the current British phonetappers look like amateurs? Hoover’s FBI hounded lots of good people, with unproven allegations and innuedo.
But, unlike “The Iron Lady”, there has been plenty of time to look back and reflect on Hoover’s life.
It seems that recent evidence shows that Jedgar didn’t dress in women’s clothing and wasn’t gay. Who cares? Not me. He could have been dancing in tutus around Washington and I would still think he was an evil man who saw communists he wished to destroy everywhere he looked.
Let me get through the assumptions of my ego and memory and look at this as a movie. Just a movie.
To start with, I found the prosthetics used by Leonardo DiCaprio and Armie Hammer beyond distracting and annoying. Different numbers of age spots freckle balding heads, within the same scene. Continuity? Hello?
As with Thatcher, the plot device hinges around Hoover looking back at his life. This is confusing and annoying. It only just works in “The Iron Lady” but it doesn’t work here. It makes it all feel episodic and bitty.
Young Edgar (or John) has dreams of making national security more streamlined and modern. He wants integrated systems and a database of fingerprints. He fights to take over key cases from local police.
As head of the FBI, he has longevity unimaginable to today’s security services, at almost 50 years in the job.
And he probably dies because Richard Nixon tells him he is about to lose his position.
At 134 minutes, it’s just too long. Judi Dench is very good as Jedgar’s mommy and Jessica Hecht is fabulous as Emma Goldman, although she has very little to do and looks unlike Emma.
I know the big case here is the missing Lindbergh baby, but this plot went on WAY too long. Do people even know who Lindbergh is, nowadays?
So, I went back and watched “Hereafter” again last night. It was my best picture of 2011 and I feared I had been gulled. Nope, this fourth viewing brought me lots of new delights and it’s still an original movie about a difficult subject.
Pity I can’t say the same about “J. Edgar”. This will not be troubling my top 10 list of 2012.
Naomi Watts is okay as Helen Gandy, Hoover’s secretary.
Is it all true or not? I wish my emotions had been engaged enough to care. I checked the time at least 11 times and I was tempted to leave the Stratford Picturehouse, but I thought I might miss something special, if I did so.
There’s a good bomb explosion and some of the Kennedy and Martin Luther King scenes are a bit creepy, especially if you remember the events these recreations are based on.
Please, let Clint make another good movie soon. I would hate to remember this for very long.