Movie Review: J Edgar (2011)

Posted: March 4, 2013 in Drama

j edgar


J. Edgar Hoover (Leonardo Di Caprio) made a name for himself as a member of the Bureau of Investigations under A. Mitchell Palmer in 1919. (Geoff Pierson).  After Palmer’s house was firebombed by anarchists, Hoover’s first assignment was leading the Palmer raids, raids that led to the arrest and deportation over 500 anarchists.  Hoover then deported Emma Goldman (Jessica Hecht) even though Goldman was a U.S. citizen.  In 1924, Hoover was named head of the Bureau of Investigations and appointed Clyde Tolson (Armie Hammer) as his assistant, and Helen Gandy (Naomi Watts) as his personal secretary.  In the 1930’s, the FBI arrested gangsters like Machine Gun Kelly, and in 1935, the FBI started to investigate the kidnapping of Charles Lindburgh’s  (Josh Lucas) son, they arrested Bruno Hauptmann. (Damon Herriman) Hauptmann was convicted and executed.

Even though Hoover was amassing an impressive list of arrests, and even though he was revolutionizing the field of crime fighting with techniques such as fingerprinting, Hoover was gathering what he called counterintelligence, what most people called dirt.  Hoover was gathering embarrassing revelations on everyone from Charlie Chaplin to Eleanor Roosevelt, the Kennedys, and Martin Luther King.  Even as he was keeping those secret files with Helen Gandy, there were rumors swirling about his own sexuality and his relationship with Clyde Tolson.

I didn’t like this movie.  I cannot believe a movie about J Edgar Hoover could be boring, but it was.  Most of the fault lies with director Clint Eastwood.  He uses flashbacks and flash forwards to such a great extent, that any plot gets lost.  One minute the viewer is in the 1920’s, the next, the viewer is in the 1960’s, and so the plot becomes diluted and disjointed.  Because of the overuse of the flashback, the story becomes non-linear storytelling.  I don’t care much for non-linear storytelling. The pacing is leaden, which is also Eastwood’s fault.   Too much of the story concentrates on Hoover’s relationship with his mother and on his sexuality, and so it becomes too gossipy.  When a movie takes rumors , about anyone, and presents them as fact, that’s the height of irresponsibility. The more interesting story would have been Hoover’s accruing of power, and his abuse of power, and the use of those secret files to keep politicians in line, but this is not that story.

The acting is ok, DeCaprio does his best to deliver a powerful performance, but the material is lacking.  I’m not convinced that Armie Hammer is a good actor, and his role is diminished to being Hoover’s love interest.  Naomi Watts is reduced to being Hoover’s loyal, faithful secretary.  But she is strangely unconflicted about her role in keeping all those secrets, An unconflicted character is a boring character.  Judi Dench isn’t onscreen long enough to make an impact, as Hoover’s overbearing mother.

J. Edgar.  So much trash, not even a Hoover can clean it up.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s