J. EDGAR (Clint Eastwood). 135 minutes. Opens Friday (November 11). For venues and times see Movies. Rating: NN
J. Edgar is the latest in Clint Eastwood’s late-period series of stately duds.
It’s the sort of Oscar bait that plods along convinced of its own supreme importance when in fact it’s just dull and superficial.
I can see why Eastwood appreciated the bullet-point expediency of Milk writer Dustin Lance Black’s screenplay. It lets him tick off the key events in Hoover’s career – primarily the Lindbergh kidnapping and the formation of the FBI – while nodding in the direction of rumours that Hoover occasionally wore women’s clothing and was more comfortable around associate FBI director Clyde Tolson than he was around the ladies.
Certainly, Armie Hammer plays Tolson as unapologetically queer and devoted to Hoover, but Leonardo DiCaprio’s conception of Hoover seems to be that of a man so deeply terrified of any form of intimacy that he can’t ever allow himself to relax with anyone.
Throw in Naomi Watts as Hoover’s secretary, who bears witness to his pain but can’t help assuage it, and you’ve got a Douglas Sirk melodrama played out in the corridors of American power – or at least that’s what Black seems to have in mind. But Eastwood refuses to engage with it, dancing around the material without ever committing to it. It’s just one big missed opportunity.