Wednesday, February 8, 2012

J. Edgar

Highly factual and historically correct films is a difficult feat to pull off, but when I heard that Clint Eastwood (Gran Torino, Invictus, Changeling) was behind the  complex story of a very enigmatic FBI agent, I felt a sense of relief that things would pan out for the best. But sadly, J. Edgar is a very flawed gem with some parts brilliant, some parts average and some parts downright boring.

Let’s start with the good stuff, which I can easily condense into the name of one single actor: Leonardo Dicaprio. J. Edgar definitely wasn’t a simple man and Eastwood at least had the insight to know that he would have to use an actor with an amazing capacity for a dynamic role that would require many ups and downs of emotion. Even though I’m not sure how accurate Dicaprio’s performance is, he definitely manages to create a very interesting character that is at times infuriating, loveable and even extremely funny. Eastwood is known for the strong emotional connection to his films and whilst it takes a bit longer than you would expect it to, Eastwood does manage to give his film a nice chewy emotional centre.

"...a very interesting character that is at times infuriating, loveable and even extremely funny."

And then there’s the bad: For some reason, the film struggles painfully to get into a proper rhythm. Most of the story is told as a sort of recollection of Edgar’s career, but a lack of proper exposition throughout the film make it quite hard to keep track of what is happening. It’s almost as if the film should have come with a short bio on Edgar’s life as Eastwood doesn’t take nearly enough time to properly explain most of the film’s more important plot events.

 This becomes very ironic when you take into account the film’s extremely long runtime – It’s not as if there wasn’t enough time to properly explain certain plot developments better, but instead of guiding the viewer a bit, Eastwood tries to cram in too much of Edgar’s life. Personally I think the movie would have been much better without many of the laborious case discussions that appear later in the film and rather more scenes of emotional profoundness between Edgar and the few important people in his life. A revision of the final screenplay would have helped...

Also, it seems that there is a lot of unnecessary time lapsing in this film with Eastwood abusing time constraints to jump between the young Dicaprio and a gross wrinkly version enough times to make you a bit seasick. While some scenes of the older Edgar are very poignant, some just don’t seem to add to the story at all and only serve for some awkward moments of unintentional humour.

So while this does seem like a complete Eastwood bashing, I should add that the film’s cinematography is noticeably effective, that the ensemble cast (Armie Hammer, Naomi Watts, Judi Dench) are outstanding and that the minimalistic use of a striking score adds a lot to the film’s more intense moments.  The degree to which you will enjoy Eastwood’s latest all depends on how forgiving you are of its flaws and whilst it’s certainly not Eastwood’s best, he does manage to tell his story with great detail and commitment.

Highlight: I’m not much of a dresser, but I must admit that Dicaprio looks fabulous in a blue dress with a stunning matching necklace. Oh, and it’s also the most powerful scene in the film. 

Old and perplexed... not a good combination. Nice suit though.