Wednesday, November 9, 2011

REVIEW: J. Edgar

J. Edgar

Leonardo Dicaprio,
Armie Hammer


November 9, 2011 (LIMITED)
November 11, 2011 (WIDE)

Clint Eastwood

Warner Bros. Pictures

2 hours 17 minutes



Looks like Leo has switched sides in terms of the FBI with his new film 'J. Edgar,' the biopic of controversial FBI director J. Edgar Hoover directed by Clint Eastwood. The film kept switching time periods from the 1920's/1930's when Hoover was at the top of his game and possibly had a secret affair with a Mr. Clyde Tolson, and the 1970's when Hoover is writing his autobiography. Even before a trailer was released a month and a half ago, buzz for this movie has been incredibly strong with the thought on everyone's mind that this was surefire Oscar bait. While the film is well acted and is intriguing throughout, 'J. Edgar' suffers from poor editing, awful makeup work when the three leads Leonardo, Armie, and Naomi Watts are shown in their old stages, and being just a disappointing film overall. Still though, Leonardo is a surefire Oscar nominee, Eastwood has a strong resume, and many audiences will love it. While it may not be Best Picture material at the Oscars, 'J. Edgar' is a good enough movie for me to recommend, just don't go in expecting a lot, and expect your butt numb and exhausted by the time the film ends.

The movie is supposed to look and feel like an old school crime movie, though it only succeeds at looking that way. I think Eastwood purposely shot the movie to have the look of a black and white movie, because there is barely any color in this film at all outside of the skin. I may be one of the few who thought that Eastwood's 'Invictus' was one of 2009's best movies, which shocks me because Eastwood is the same guy who has directed such Oscar winning films as 'Million Dollar Baby.' However, this is also coming from the guy who never got to see 'Hereafter,' which was panned by many. I respect Eastwood as a skilled director and hope that one day soon he will get his legendary touch back, hopefully very soon.

One of the good features of the movie was the acting. Everyone plays their part well, which is expected from this type of film. DiCaprio shines as J. Edgar, with his performance witty, narcissistic, and powerful. Throughout the film you see him both heavily devoted to his line of work and struggling with his sexuality. The chemistry Hoover has with all of the characters, including Mr. Tolson and his mother are all the best scenes in this movie. Definitely look out for some heavy Oscar buzz for DiCaprio, but don't expect him to win the gold this year, because he wasn't excellent; he was just good, mainly because his voice and personality never change in the 50 year jumps when Hoover's old and when he's young. Another strong character in the film is Hoover's right hand man Clyde Tolson. The actor who plays Mr. Tolson is Armie Hammer, who only last year was playing two versions of himself as The Winkelvoss Twins in 'The Social Network.' Hammer is the only guy in this movie to actually compete with DiCaprio's Hoover, and he does it flawlessly. While the Oscars are probably not in his cards quite yet, Hammer is on the fast track to becoming one of Hollywood's best actors.

The other two supporting characters, Helen Gandy and Anne Marie, are played by the always fantastic Naomi Watts and Dame Judi Dench. Talk about girl power, because these lovely ladies are simply brilliant in their parts, Watts in particular. In my opinion, she was the most realistic character in the film, which means that you could believe that the original Gandy acted that way. Dench was also a very interesting character, because she plays Hoover's homophobic mother, whom. You don't find this out until about an hour or so into the film, but it's expected because half of this movie took place in the 30's, and it's somewhat implied in the trailer. The entire cast was very good, but it's probably going to be DiCaprio in the end that gets the Oscar talks, despite strong performances from all who played.

Visual flaws are clearly seen in all movies, which can somewhat take away from believing a certain scene or just distract you from what is going on. The makeup used to age the three main leads is some of the worst makeup I've seen in a movie in a long time. While Leo looks and acts the part of the 77 year old Edgar, I saw him looking more and more like Jon Voight after each scene, which makes you question why Voight wasn't cast for the old man part if the makeup department was trying to make DiCaprio look like Voight as the old Hoover. It's in some ways laughable to see Leo, such a great actor, looking like Angelina Jolie's father rather than the father of the FBI. If you think from what was just said that Leo was the worst looking old person in this movie, think again.

The worst looking person in the 1970's stage of the film is Armie Hammer's character Clyde Tolson. I have no idea what the makeup department was trying to create, but Tolson looked as if a fat, unrecognizable mask was put on his face the width of two bars of soap, with barely any resemblance to the younger version we see throughout the other half of the film. The only convincing makeup for a character is for Naomi Watts' Helen Gandy. She as an old lady looks deeply convincing and not as plastic as the two male leads and their rubber glory. Still though, that does not take away the fact that the terrible makeup only adds to the disappointment of the film.

The screenwriter of 'J. Edgar' is Dustin Lance Black, who directed the award crazy 2008 movie 'Milk,' which also happened to have a gay romance between the main character and a supporting character. 'Milk' just so happens to have been Black's last screenplay and only screenplay before this, so it seems that Black likes to write about homosexuals and the controversy between them during certain time periods. Black is openly gay in real life, which makes me question if he can only write movies about homosexuals. I assure you that I am not a homophobic, but I just believe that he should try to be more diverse when he's writing his movies.

The movie is not as mediocre as early reviews said, yet it's not as great as we all hoped it would be. The cast is good enough, and the script isn't bad despite its almost central focus on the gay aspect of Hoover's possibly secret life with Mr. Tolson. However the makeup is some of the worst use of makeup ever used in a movie, the editing is very choppy despite a solid final 10 minutes where we find out that almost everything accomplished by Edgar in real life might not have actually happened the way his memoir says, and the music sometimes doesn't make a lot of sense. Audiences will be split on this film, some praising it and some will walk out about an hour and a half in. I myself am split in the middle of these people, but more on the positive side than negative. If you want to see an interesting biopic despite some major flaws, then you should check this out. However if you're expecting a full blown Oscar tour de force, then forget about it! Outside of acting, this movie will not get nominated for any awards at all. Overall 'J. Edgar' is a good movie with a good cast, though don't go into this over 2 hour flick (and sometimes slow) expecting a fantastic film.

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