I know I promised a cheesy "Best-War-Movie" list thing, but I really could only think of one truly "great" war movie--Saving Private Ryan. So, I kinda got over the whole make a list thing. Combine that with a bad day at work (Veteran's got FREE food at The OG and yet still didn't tip. That's both embarrassing and disrespectful--Thanks Soldiers) and I just had no real desire to get a list done. My solution? Go buy something. After heading to the new H&M and deciding the 3 hour line just to get in wasn't worth the wait, I decided a movie would be a good idea. Oscar season is just around the corner, and J. Edgar is looking to capitalize...
DISCLAIMER: With all my reviews I will include a brief short synopsis followed by a detailed review exploring the themes, acting, writing, direction, cinematography, etc. So, if you have the attention span of say Paris Hilton, all you'll have to read is the "Briefly" section. I'll try and keep it simple for you guys.
BRIEFLY: J. Edgar is a well acted film in which DiCaprio shines. Still, Eastwood's direction is so uneven, so fragmented, and so very dull both in it's execution and concept, that I'm left asking, "Huh?" Further, the Dustin Lance Black penned script is also a far cry from his deft work in Milk, as he manages to make J. Edgar feel more like a Citizen Kane-wannabe-groupie rather than a fresh revealing look into a very troubling and complex man. Eastwood seemingly has fallen a long way from Million Dollar Baby and Gran Torino.
DETAILED REVIEW: What do you get when you take two of the most powerful men in Hollywood, throw in an up-and-coming screenwriter, while snagging a producer whose filmography reads like the selection at Blockbuster? (Are there even Blockbusters anymore? #fail) Apparently, you get J. Edgar. A film that feels like its trying too hard, for too long. It so yearns to be a biopic of supreme substance and entertainment, yet falls far short. We are never quite sure whether we are supposed to sympathize or passionately despise the titular character.
Directed by Clint Eastwood, J. Edgar is likely a product of a man/legend who simply thinks he knows what we want. When Eastwood is great, he is brilliant. (see Unforgiven, Million Dollar Baby, etc.) When Eastwood is bad, he is awful on a M. Night Shyamalan level. (see Hereafter, Invictus, and Changeling) Quite possibly his greatest folly is his love for nostalgia in J. Edgar which completely undermines every minute with awkward and uneven placement of political figures and celebrities a like (there's a scene with Shirley Temple that literally made me go "REALLYYYY?"). He wants us to feel something, but seems to force us into the plot rather than the character. Even Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman knows that's simply a "Big mistake. Big. Huge."
Herein lies the problem with a film such as this, is it a character study or is the plot, the formation of the FBI, the real story here. Estwood nor Dustin Lance Black seem to know what they want it to be, as the plot is organized in a very haphazardly schizophrenic way. There seems to be no rhyme or reason to its collinear organization other than to confuse the audience.
The film follows J. Edgar Hoover, played rathher adeptly by Leonardo DiCaprio. Hoover rises through the ranks to direct and organize the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Naomi Watts plays his loyal assistant while Armie Hammer is DiCaprio's right hand man, both in bed and in the boardroom. Hoover's mother played by "Oscar Queen" Judi Dench is the cold-hearted woman behind the equally cold Edgar. The acting as an ensemble is deserving of serious praise, yet bad make-up and lighting (most notably with Armie Hammer's older version of Tolson) makes the film feel far less authentic and far more like a scant high school theatre production. Still, credit DiCaprio for portraying Edgar. He brought his "A game," and deserves an Oscar nomination without a doubt.
In the end, it's hard to say who J. Edgar Hoover really was, which is quite possibly to biggest disservice the film does for it's audience. There is seemingly too much going on at too many different times. A narrative structure like this would better suit a drug addict diva--Lindsay Lohan perhaps? (Now there's an idea!). Regardless, it is worth at least a Redbox viewing as DiCaprio's performance is haunting and eerily captivating.
And please, please, please Clint.... Start making good movies again!
'Cause I be startin to lose some serious interest...