Thursday, 19 January 2012

A Great Performance From Leo Can't Make Up For A Dull J.Edgar

An Oscar winning director and a five times nominated leading man are the perfect ingredients for an excellent movie. So when we went to our favourite cinema FACT in Liverpool last night for a preview of J.Edgar we were hopeful of seeing something special. Well, we did  see a preview of FACT's new publicity film and that was very exciting and demonstrates brilliantly what an outstanding arts venue it is. But when it came to the main event I am afraid that we were less than blown away.

Leonardo plays FBI chief J Edgar Hoover as a stuffy, priggish repressed martinet of a man and Hoover may well have been all of those things. But they are all things that make Hoover a thoroughly dislikable man and, with a lead for whom the audience has little or no empathy (echoes of The Iron Lady here), it is very difficult to warm to the film. DiCaprio is excellent and creates a cowardly character whose real ability is in organising filing systems and forensic investigative resources instead of being the heroic, machine gun wielding  G-Man that he wants to project.

Throughout the film it is clear that Director Clint Eastwoood has decided that the rumours of Hoover's closet homosexuality are true and an almost Brokeback Mountain relationship develops between Hoover and his right hand man Clyde Tolson played by Armie Hammer. For me this relationship is ruined by both the schmalzy music which accompanies scenes of tenderness between Hoover and Tolson and by Hammer's make up as the older Tolson which make him look as if he is wearing a particularly uncomfortable latex mask ( which he probably is - don't expect any Oscar nominations on this front).

Eastwood hints that Hoover's incredible forty eight years as head of the FBI was achieved by his method of digging up dirt on anyone and everyone and keeping it in files maintained by his loyal secretary Miss Gandy who stuck with him for the whole time and was a beacon of discretion. But nobody ever dug any dirt on Hoover which implies that, in view of the machiavellian scheming of some of the presidents he worked with like Nixon and Kennedy, any closet gay tendencies that he had were, as the film depicts, totally unfulfilled. 

There is not a lot of excitement in the film which is all about Hoover's relationships with Miss Gandy (Naomi Watts), Clyde Tolson and his bullying mother (Judy Dench). There are mentions of the Lindbergh  baby case and Capone et al but in the end it's all about J.Edgar (what else do you expect? - look at the title dummy) and I am afraid that Hoover's lack of charisma is the downfall of the film.