The Movie Waffler New Release Review - J. Edgar | The Movie Waffler

New Release Review - J. Edgar

Directed by: Clint Eastwood
Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Judi Dench, Naomi Watts, Armie Hammer

This film faces the same hurdles as "The Iron Lady", how do you humanise such a controversial and largely reviled figure?
Just as Thatcher was shown as a vulnerable old woman, here screenwriter Dustin Lance Black focuses on Hoover's secret life as a homosexual. Most of Black's previous screenplays have been gay romances and essentially this is what he's done here. It's a bit like writing a biopic of Hitler and focusing on how much of a dog lover the dictator was. It also seems a bit patronising, I'd like to think gay audiences aren't going to see Hoover as a sympathetic figure just because he shares their sexuality. The man was a huge enemy of civil rights and had he not been gay himself his politics would suggest he would have targeted that community too.
Dicaprio gives a fine performance as does Dench as his domineering mother, and Hammer as his secret lover, but the rest of the movie fails to equal the power of it's performers. The make-up on characters in their later years is really below par, especially on Hammer who kept reminding me of the aged astronaut at the climax of "2001: A Space Odyssey".
The look of the film I found particularly ugly, regular Eastwood collaborator Tom Stern lights everything so low I found myself straining to make out facial details. It's also seriously desaturated, a technique I've never understood, if you don't want colour in your movie just have the balls to shoot in black and white. In a way it's quite fitting as this is the story of an interesting figure but sadly Eastwood and his team have drained any colour from it. I recommend Larry Cohen's "The Private Files Of J. Edgar Hoover" over this, it's a lot more trashy but a lot more watchable.