Pauls Valley Democrat
Pauls Valley, Oklahoma —
History can often favor the victorious and ignore a lot of wrongs, but sometimes the most vile cannot completely wash away the grime. This is another such example where there’s not enough polishing you can do make look good the damage done by what is most likely America’s most famous fear monger.
Yet, I’ll be honest upfront and say I’ve never been a huge fan of the baby-faced star of this film, but there are occasions when even I must tip my hat to the moments undeniably golden. It’s fascinating to see the life of someone who is so despised historically and done well to the point we actually see him become what is usually limited to just memory. ‘J. Edgar’ is admittedly not much to celebrate when all the parts are brought together, but at least does enough service to the focal figure therein.
By now it’s pretty clear who the story is about, but this particular tale has paranoid old J. Edgar Hoover (Leonardo DiCaprio) recall his rise to power all the way back to 1919. Taken down by a writer from the FBI (Ed Westwick) as a biography of sorts, he talks about from his perspective on how he helped build the bureau and create a lot of the forms of investigation from centralized fingerprinting to early forensic science.
What Clint Eastwood offers audiences is a look at the inner-world most might not be familiar with and those closest to him from a way too meddlesome mother (Judi Dench) as well as his personal secretary Helen Gandy (Naomi Watts) to what many suspect as a homosexual relationship with his second in command, Clyde Tolson (Armie Hammer). By the way, if you notice a little bit of a similarity to the film “Milk,” it’s no coincidence since Dustin Lance Black apparently also lends his writing credits to this script as well. In the end, it feels more like a wayward History Channel program that runs on a bit longer than needed with an finale we are more glad to receive than appreciate.
Again, I appreciate the investment from DiCaprio as this has to be one of his best delivered roles, but there seemed to be a film element or two missing and a lack of a connection to the plot as a whole. The only feelings I got were supporting what I already believed in how much of a misguided jerk the real man was, but it seemed like what really made his whole evil process work was still shrouded in secrecy.
Perhaps a bit more liberty could have been taken with what we knew about him to at least clear up why he was so afraid all of the time. In any case, it works for those hardcore enough in following this type of genre and just want to blow off time, but I doubt I’ll be picking it up again anytime soon. After it was over I’d say “J. Edgar” earns an average two and a half out of five suspicions.
DVD rental courtesy of Family Video of Pauls Valley.