J. Edgar on Blu-ray
One would think that a biopic about one of the most powerful and controversial men of the last one hundred years would be interesting. Most likely a closeted homosexual and cross-dresser , somewhat a narcissist, J. Edgar Hoover had dirt on everyone. So when you consider what exactly Clint Eastwood is presenting in J. Edgar, it’s disappointing. And it does seem that Eastwood is either losing focus, or waxing extremely nostalgic in his last few films. Hereafter‘s attempt at heavy meditation on death and the afterlife came off hollow, almost cheapening the ideas that were meant to be held in respect. Two years before that, he literally presented himself as a messiah saving a family of minorities from perceived imminent destruction. It seems that with J. Edgar, the director is longing for a more romantic time in cinema, and history.
Unfortunately, it feels like more of a dull history lesson than anything else. It’s storytelling is befuddled and confusing at times. There’s absolutely terrible makeup. Think Cocoon, or the last fifteen minutes of Six Feet Under’s series finale. The Blu-ray format does this absolutely no favors as we can see in high-definition all that went so very wrong on the faces of Leonardo DiCaprio, Armie Hammer, and Naomi Watts.
The production was blessed with very good performances. DiCaprio is solid, as always. I cannot speak to the historical accuracy of his thick, early 20th-century American accent, but it did take me a while to grow accustomed to it. However, Hoover is a larger than life character, both admirable in his loyal patriotism, and terrifying in his ideas of sacrificing personal freedoms in the name of the country. DiCaprio walked this line admirably. Naomi Watts was more pleasing than DiCaprio, in my opinion, but her talent was wasted on the small and peripheral role of Hoover’s secretary of fifty four years. In fact, it looked like screen writer Dustin Lance Black (Milk, Big Love) significantly down played the enormous role Gandy played in Hoover’s life. Armie Hammer performed well as Clyde Tolson, Associate Director of the FBI. But once the makeup department started showering both DiCaprio and Hammer with makeup and prostheses, all is lost. At one point, Tolson experiences a stroke, hindering his ability to speak. But I couldn’t stop wondering if Hammer was just having trouble opening his mouth with all that makeup on.
The Blu-ray’s single bonus feature is a documentary called J. Edgar: The Most Powerful Man in the World featuring many of the cast and crew.
Warner Brothers provided BFR with a Blu-ray for this review.