| This disconnected biographical drama from director Clint Eastwood (“Hereafter”) is all over the map with a non-linear structure that never gives audiences a firm grasp of one of the most powerful, controversial and puzzling individuals in American history.
The finger pointing for this disastrous Oscar pretender has to begin with screenwriter Dustin Lance Black (“Milk”) who uses the narrative device of J. Edgar Hoover (Leonardo DiCaprio) dictating his memoir to an assortment of young FBI agents. This triggers flashbacks to key moments in his public and private life.
Hoover is interested in telling his side of the story. He desperately sought the admiration of his country and wanted his legacy to be that of a glorious hero.
Eastwood and Black play the devil’s advocate and give us a distorted view of history.
They play up Hoover’s lifelong fight against Communist radicals and his obsession with catching and bringing to justice the kidnapper of Charles Lindbergh’s baby. Their major concern revolves around Hoover’s private life and whether he was a closeted homosexual and an occasional cross-dresser.
The movie primarily focuses on the relationships that Hoover had with the most important people in his life. They were his overbearing mother, Anne Marie Hoover (Judi Dench), his lifelong secretary, Helen Gandy (Naomi Watts) and his constant companion, alter ego and second- in-command, Clyde Tolson (Armie Hammer).
The movie has too many weaknesses to overcome. They include the heavy layers of prosthetic latex makeup on the aging characters, a desaturated color scheme draining the screen of vitality, a sparse piano-driven instrumental score, inconsequential dialogue and uneven pacing. The 137-minute running time proves to be an arduous task to sit through.
At the 90-minute mark, you may find yourself losing interest and checking your watch. Some people walked out of the free advance screening as this long drawn-out ordeal approached the two-hour mark.
The movie shows how daunting and unwieldy a task it is to capture on film Hoover’s nearly 50-year career as head of the FBI. You can learn more about this man by reading his biography on Wikipedia. The movie only hints at the innovations that he instituted in solving crimes that included a centralized fingerprinting system and forensic laboratories. He believed that information is power and kept secret files on powerful political figures. His primary concern was to keep our country safe and he was willing to bend the rules to accomplish that goal.
Keith Cohen "The Movie Guy"