J. Edgar

(2011)

Genres: Biography, Drama

Review: J. Edgar (redux)

Transcript for Review: J. Edgar (redux)

CHRISTY LEMIRE:

Okay, last week we gave you an early review of "J. Edgar," the latest from Clint Eastwood, which explores the rise of longtime FBI director J. Edgar Hoover. Now the movie is in theaters, we'd like to revisit it again. Leonardo DiCaprio stars as this powerful yet elusive figure, whose primary goal was to gain the respect and adoration of the American people -- at the expense of his personal life.
 
That's Armie Hammer as Clyde Tolson, Hoover's second-in-command, trusted confidante and lifelong companion. The script from Dustin Lance Black -- who won an Oscar for another biographical drama, "Milk" -- jumps back and forth in time between Hoover dictating his memoirs and the events themselves that shaped him, and the bureau. Throughout it all, Tolson is a constant.
 
"J. Edgar" is an impeccably crafted historical epic wrapped around a love story. That's what provides the real emotional pull here. As always, Eastwood has made a film that's efficient from a narrative standpoint, but it also feels solid and intelligent. He's amassed a strong cast, including Judi Dench as Hoover's controlling mother and Naomi Watts as his loyal secretary. But the repressed romance between Hoover and Tolson, which has long been suggested, creates major chemistry as well as great sadness and regret. DiCaprio and Hammer are both tremendous here -- my thumb is very much up.
 
IGNATIY VISHNEVESTKY:  
 
My thumb is up as well, and what I really like about this movie is the way that Eastwood, and you know working from a screenplay, is able to create a sense of a really shadowy world.  You sort of inhabit the universe of Hoover’s paranoia, and there’s this really great scene I think fairly early in the film where Hoover is going up the staircase with a snub nose revolver.  Do you remember them raiding the anarchist printing press?  
 
CHRISTY: Yes.
 
IGNATIY:
And he comes to the top of the stairs, and he’s completely covered in shadows, and then, he sees his two agents you know beating the life out of this guy. They were supposed to be arresting.  Also, kind of basked in these shadows, and that is really the world this film inhabits.  Is a world where there’s a very real evil, but things are still fairly…it’s not always clear what’s the right thing to do.
 
CHRISTY:
But also I think it has some sympathy toward him.
 
IGNATIY:
Oh it’s a very sympathetic…
 
CHRISTY:
And his loneliness. Right.
 
IGNATIY:
It’s a very sympathetic portrayal.  I mean he’s a really tragic figure. He’s this guy who wants to fight evil, but then he can’t really tell weakness a part from evil, and he starts to think of everyone’s minor failings as being you know signs of the fact that they’re out to destroy America.
 
CHRISTY:
Right, and but he also has doubts about himself if you look at his relationship with his mother played by Judi Dench, who is terrific here.  
 
IGNATIY:
Right. Yeah, she’s really good in this.
 
CHRISTY:
She places so much doubt in him even…whatever heights he ascends to, whatever power he achieves, he’s always his mother’s child and wanting her approval and that torments him until the day she dies.
 
IGNATIY:
Yeah, and that’s his downfall.  It’s an emotional downfall because obviously you know when he died, he was still at the height of his powers, but the film kind of gives him this tragic arc.  
 
CHRISTY:
He was never happy.
 
IGNATIY:
He was never happy; at least in this film.