Arts & CultureFilm & TV

'J. Edgar' fails to live up to real-life story it is based on

The sexually repressed founding father of the FBI, whose long and controversial career ended abruptly when he died of a heart attack, should make for a good story.

Unfortunately, “J. Edgar,” directed by Clint Eastwood and staring Leonardo DiCaprio as the famous FBI director Edgar Hoover and Armie Hammer as Hoover’s coworker Clyde Tolson, doesn’t live up to the story it is based on.@@

The movie recounts the journey of Hoover, who was named the director of the FBI in 1935@@, as he struggles to fulfill the expectations of his mother, his profession and himself, while keeping his love for co-worker Clyde Tolson a secret.

The first part of the film focuses on how FBI Director Hoover uses science to solve crimes and builds the newly-formed FBI’s credibility in front of law enforcement and America. During the second half, the movie switches over to the struggle that the repressed Hoover has with his own identity.

As always, DiCaprio’s style and attention to detail deserve applause; however, the decision to use the same actors for both the young and old Hoover and Clyde seems a bit odd. One can almost see the younger actors underneath the masks fabricated for them. The already weak veneer of age is completely erased when the actors speak – the sound and flow of their voices is nearly unchanged from the previous scene, which was a flashback to 50 years earlier.

The dual story lines of up-and-coming Hoover and old-man Hoover keep the pace interesting, but the problem is that apart from a few scenes, the storyline and script seem to lack inspiration.

Again and again, the movie starts to develop one aspect of a character’s personality or explores the dynamic between two characters and then fails to answer the questions that it brought up. Viewers will get the gist, but will often be left wondering, “What was the purpose of that scene?”

Naomi Watts (Hoover’s secretary Helen Gandy)@@[email protected]@ performed well and her young/old character transition was the only one that seemed to go smoothly.

Audience members might laugh when Hammer first comes on in his old-man suit. His costume is hardly human-looking, even uncanny. This is partially due to Hammer struggling to deliver an awkward script, but mostly because of the awful job on part of the makeup and costume designers. At times it looked as if director Eastwood merely borrowed an old-man mask from the “Jackass” warehouse and put it over C-3P0.

While DiCaprio’s acting seems as good as it always is, in “J. Edgar” he’s a single trumpet trying to make up for a broken symphony. The story had every opportunity to be an excellent movie: it’s relatable, it has conflict on many levels, the shift between 1930s America and 1960s America presents many opportunities for interesting set and costume design, but on the whole, “J. Edgar” falls short.

In the end, like the not-quite-human look of Clyde and Hoover in their later years, the movie seems slightly off. If you’re a law enforcement history buff or love DiCaprio’s work, it might be worth a look. But ultimately the uninspired soundtrack and odd casting decisions combined with only a passable script make this film average.

Grade: C

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