With perhaps the most successful actor turned director behind the camera and featuring one of the most popular actors in this current era, there seemed like there was nothing that was going to stop this becoming a huge success! Despite that there are various references that the film consists of that is beyond anything than Eastwood or DiCaprio have been part of, expectations were still high. Plus, with the bad luck that they’ve mutually shared in most recent years, they both needed to be at the best of their game to become strong Oscar contenders. So, having said this, unfortunately J. Edgar became a rather big disappointment that could have been so much better but it still had its one or two qualities.
The most crucial features within J. Edgar where it suffers the most is that it really did not serve a thought-provoking meaning or message that enables the audience to stick with and to really think about. In most of the scenes, it just fell flat and there wasn’t all that much chemistry between the characters, especially between Hoover and Tolson. It really could have been as solid emotionally and politically as Milk by Gus Van Sant back in 2008 but the majority of the time, the film wasn’t really getting anywhere and became something that was rather lost at what it was trying to tell to its audience. Technically, the film looked good especially with the impressive make-up used for the characters in the most recent time settings and should have gained an Academy Award nomination in that category.
Considering that Leonardo DiCaprio generally looks exactly the same appearance-wise throughout most of the films that he has been involved in and has delivered some fantastic performances over the years, DiCaprio was still decent enough to endure on the screen but this is definitely not one of the best of his career. He lacked that inspirational and emotionally confused tone to J. Edgar’s character that made him a very crucial part in American history with his personal life as a closeted homosexual. Plus, the number of DiCaprio’s different pronunciations varied and became an almost complete jumble of American accents, so that became a severe blow to the character too. To be honest, DiCaprio could have pulled it off exquisitely like Sean Penn did in his Oscar-winning performance as Harvey Milk and given him a long-overdue Academy Award but quite frankly, DiCaprio’s Edgar just felt empty, shallow and completely soulless from start to finish.
Although it was never officially confirmed but having had its certain suspicions, the possible homosexual relationship between Hoover and his protégé Clyde Tolson perhaps was not focused or deeply analysed often enough. In fact, without reading about Hoover and Tolson themselves and by watching the film, you wouldn’t be able to identify that there was the possible forbidden love between them (apart from the one unexpected kiss). After his performance as the Winklevoss twins in The Social Network by David Fincher, Armie Hammer’s performance was, like DiCaprio, satisfactory but wasn’t realistic enough to feel emotionally attached to. It may be a rather difficult task for two male actors or two female actresses who are real-life heterosexuals to form a strong homosexual relationship on-screen, but both Tolson and DiCaprio acted like they didn’t want to be part of this film. Naomi Watts may be an underrated actress as it is and may have been under-used again in J. Edgar but in all honesty, her character was virtually completely pointless and served almost no key part in the film at all. Judi Dench makes an appearance too as Hoover’s mother and provided a typical tender mother nature but also her occasional dark side too, especially regarding homosexuality.
Most recently being the director of a biographical drama about Nelson Mandella and the Rugby World Cup and then a supernatural-fantasy drama, veteran actor and director Clint Eastwood unfortunately never received any top-spot awards for his work. Shamefully, J. Edgar really isn’t the best that Clint or any of the actors within the film can do, so it is quite possibly Clint’s worst film as director to date. He really missed the point with this one and achieved neither the ruthless and power-hungry governmental figure of the FBI led by J. Edgar Hoover nor about Hoover himself personally as a lonesome and depressed homosexual. He also perhaps sinks as low to how Oliver Stone has turned out now after how great he was before! Having already written the script for Milk, Dustin Lance Black pens J. Edgar in his second film linked with homosexuality and politics and like Clint and the rest of the cast, it is another aspect where it could have been so much better!
Overall, J. Edgar is perhaps the most disappointing film that you’ll see in 2011 with shockingly flat and rather rushed direction from Clint Eastwood, an over-long and rather dry script from Dustin Lance Black but still with the occasionally good performances from the cast. If you’re a fan of both Clint Eastwood and Leonardo DiCaprio, you’ll most likely be disappointed with this as it is almost completely turned into something than it should have been. So, pretty much everyone involved in this film will really need to make up for this one in the future.