Sunday, November 27, 2011

J. Edgar Review

The idea behind Clint Eastwood's J. Edgar was great: chronicling the nearly 40 controversial years of J. Edgar Hoover as Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. However, the film's execution lacked in comparison. The biggest problem I had with the film was that it was too choppy and all over the place, discontinuously moving between events in Hoover's life. Having read Richard Hack's Puppetmaster, it wasn't too difficult to follow the story line, though I think I would have quickly lost interest if hadn't done so.

In terms of choosing which events in Hoover's life to depict, Eastwood did an excellent job. Since Hoover ran the FBI for 37 years, we all are aware of the numerous scandals, controversies, and affairs that transpired during this time. Eastwood managed to skillfully depict Hoover's development from young man working at the Bureau of Investigation during the Palmer Raids into the Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Ultimately, the film did not leave me feeling like there were aspects of Hoover's that I needed to know more about.

Another testimony to Eastwood's directing is his handling of aspects of Hoover's life that I had never learned of before This includes the scene in which Hoover dresses in his mother's clothes and jewelery just before bursting out in mournful cries for his matriarch. I found scenes such as these to be consistent with Hoover's life even though we may not necessarily know they happened, unless we were in Hoover's immediate company at the time.

As for the acting, I thought Leonardo DiCaprio was an excellent Hoover. He was able to capture the strict, dominant, and determined elements that Hoover displayed in his public life, as well as the emotional, lonely, and dark aspects that defined his private life. As for rest of the supporting cast (Judi Dench, Naomi Watts, and Armie Hammer), their performances surprisingly equaled how I had imagined they would be, while reading PuppetMaster.

Overall, it was a good movie (if you ignore its irregular flow) and I am glad that I read Hack's book prior to seeing it. B/B+

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