CHANNEL 4 4SEVEN E4 MORE4 FILM4 4MUSIC 4oD

Viewing your Watchlist and recommended content requires Javascript

  • 15
  • Biography, Drama
  • 2011

J. Edgar

J. Edgar

Synopsis

J Edgar Hoover (Leonardo DiCaprio) looks back over his life as the founder/boss of the FBI. Is he a reliable narrator? Do we care? All will become clear. As clear as mud.

About

Now here's a film that's fallen utterly between two stools. On the one hand it wants to be a big Oscar-y tale of the ages about the head of the FBI, one of the most powerful men in America, looking back over his life and times. And on the other hand it's a much smaller, edgier film about a closeted, life-long if possibly unconsummated love affair that could never be made public. (It is also, thanks to some bizarre make-up department choices for the sections where younger actors play senior citizens, an occasionally nightmarish glimpse into what the FBI would have looked like if it was ruled by the squishy, melting extra terrestrials in Brian Yuzna's Society, captured mid-shunting orgy.)


Director Clint Eastwood uses cinematography like a rusty shotgun in a doomed attempt to marry these two competing films - for the most part, the big Oscar biopic and the heartfelt relationship between J Edgar and his wingman Clyde Tolson are shot in the same Stygian haze, as if by imposing a unifying gloom on the project we won't notice how disjointed the whole thing is. It's an understandable decision - I once tried the same trick at school in woodwork class when I'd made a cack-handed model train: slather it in loads of really dark varnish and hope nobody notices the dodgy joins. Unfortunately, when you've got a big project like this on your hands, people notice.


It's a shame J Edgar doesn't really work, because there are some interesting ideas here and he's a great subject for a film - he's the nearest America has ever come to an unelected dictator. The film doesn't seem to get too far into this territory: it's not on his side, but nor does it want to really condemn him, preferring the 'yes, he did questionable stuff politically, but hey, he's only human' school of thought.


To end on a positive note, Armie Hammer is enjoyable as Clyde Tolson, at least until his untimely burial alive beneath the tragic prosthetic landslide that claimed the lives of both his and DiCaprio's performances. There is less information in the public domain about the real Clyde Tolson than there is about Hoover, and perhaps that helps - Hammer creates a character that's his own, in contrast to DiCaprio who seems uncertain how much license he ought to take, sometimes ploughing into full-on recreation, sometimes doing his own thing.

Cast & Connections

  • Actor: Naomi Watts, Armie Hammer, Leonardo DiCaprio
  • Director: Clilnt Eastwood
  • Writer: Dustin Lance Black
  • Producer: Clilnt Eastwood
  • Photographer: Tom Stern
  • Composer: Clilnt Eastwood

In a nutshell

A failure, but an interesting failure when you step back and contemplate the project as a whole. Not really anybody's idea of a good time at the cinema that, though, is it? File under 'missed opportunity'.

by Catherine Bray

Latest from Film4...

  • Film4 Wish I Was Here

    Wish I Was Here

    Zach Braff writes, directs and stars in his belated second feature about a man who begins to re-examine the relationships in his life after his father falls ill

  • Film4 A Walk Among The Tombstones

    A Walk Among the Tombstones

    Ex-New York cop turned unlicensed private detective Matt Scudder (Liam Neeson) hunts down two ruthless kidnappers, who target the wives of mid-level drug dealers with ready cash

  • Film4 Neighbouring Sounds

    Neighbouring Sounds on Film4

    Life in a middle-class Brazilian neighbourhood changes upon the arrival of an independent private security firm in Kleber Mendonca Fliho's assured debut on Film4

  • Film4 Ferris Bueller's Day Off

    Wheels In Motion Season On Film4

    It's a parade of motorcycles, trains and automobiles on Film4 as the Wheels In Motion Season gets rolling

  • Channel 4 Blog

    Joe Cunningham's 10 recommendations for LFF 14

    Unfortunately I haven¿t been jet setting around the world this year to the various exciting international film festivals, but that¿s what makes the London Film Festival¿s compilation approach to progr

  • Channel 4 Blog

    Michael Leader's 11 recommendations for LFF 2014

    One of the best things about the London Film Festival¿s smorgasbord approach to programming is that, amongst the world premieres and gala screenings, there¿s an eclectic collection of exciting films o

Rent now on Film4od

Available to rent for £2.49

Register with Film4.com

Personalise your Film4 experience

  • Set film reminders
  • Build your watchlist
  • Get film suggestions

or Register

Share