I’m not sure how historically accurate this film is, but, if it is accurate, then my major takeaway is that J. Edgar Hoover was super weird. I know that’s not an eloquent way of putting it, but that’s essentially what I gathered.
Leonardo DiCaprio has grown into one of my favorite actors, and he does so much with every role he takes. Even though he transforms for this performance, wearing layers of makeup to age 40 years over the course of the movie, that’s not what’s impressive here. He really seems to embody J. Edgar, from the distinctive voice to the quirks to the expressions on his face that suggest someone who desperately wants to control everything and is frustrated to find he cannot.
The other standout performance in this movie is Armie Hammer, as J. Edgar’s co-worker (and lover?), Clyde Tolson. Hammer is someone I almost have trouble taking seriously as an actor because he’s just so damn pretty, but he does good work here. J. Edgar was a little too crazy to feel sympathy for, but I always felt for Tolson – and that was because of Hammer’s performance.
This movie falls squarely in the camp of films that I enjoyed but probably would never have any desire to watch again. It’s a good, solid picture, but there’s nothing so compelling that I’d want to revisit the movie another time. I also found it too lengthy – toward the end, I was definitely wondering when it would all be over. And finally, the thing that bothered me the most is that the movie didn’t really help me understand J. Edgar Hoover any better. What I mean is, I left the theater still wondering – what was his ambition for doing all the things he did? Why was he so psychologically messed up? The movie kind of hints at things (creepy relationship with mom, absentee father), but doesn’t delve into them. Perhaps the real man was such a mystery that there simply isn’t anything to delve into, but it still left me wanting to know more.
My grade: B-