Film: J. Edgar [2011, usa]
Where I saw it: Los Angeles @ LACMA
Who I saw it with: SJ
Rating for being in the presence of Mr. Clint Eastwood: *****!
If I were to list my three least favorite film genres, it would go something like this: action films, drug-related films and the bio picture. I've kind of sworn off the drug movie as I have just had enough of seeing junkies and other addicts destroy their lives while they battle their weakness for whatever chemical they desire to have running through their veins. While I'll watch an action film every so often, I tend to avoid the vast majority of them, whether they are the endless releases connected to comic book heroes or straight up explosion fests. Michael Bay? I think you've heard me refer to him as the anti-christ of cinema at least once or twice. He's the devil!
J. Edgar is the sort of biographical history of a famous person that makes me loathe the genre so intensely. Directed by Clint Eastwood, starring Leonardo DiCaprio and attempting to tell five decades in the life of J. Edgar Hoover, the film is a bloated, lifeless, dull and unfocused story of Hoover's life. How can any two hour movie tell the story of a man such as Hoover without feeling like a cribbed-note exercise? As I often do in these films, I just kind of sit and wait for all the key moments that I know about to make it to the screen. When that happens, I check that off and wait for the next big moment that is surely coming. J. Edgar, like others in the biopic genre, is so weighed down by the formulaic parameters of having to tell the "greatest hits" of a person's life that its lost in a predictable quagmire that never surprises, moves or pulls the viewer in.
Another problem with a biopic such as J. Edgar is the fact that actors have to play a character with a wide-range of ages. DiCaprio plays Hoover in the 1920s AND 1970s and had to endure 5-7 hours in a make-up chair for the varying ages he was playing. Co-stars Arnie Hammer and Naomi Watts also underwent extensive make-up work to give them appropriate ages. The older the characters get, the more make-up seems to be applied to give them jowls, wrinkles, sun spots or other characteristics of old age. Unfortunately, with each layer to the actors' faces, it seems to limit their ability to talk and move their faces naturally. By the time Hoover is near death, DiCaprio's face is a mess of prosthetics that allows pretty much just his lips to move as he says his dialogue. The same can be said for Hammer's scenes as an old man. It's distracting to say the least.
The only thing that made up for the fact I didn't like this movie very much was the post-screening Q & A with Clint Eastwood, Leonardo DiCaprio, Arnie Hammer and screenwriter Dustin Lance Black. I could leave three of those folks, I was there to bask in the close proximity of Eastwood as he took the stage munching on a cookie picked up backstage. Eastwood is one of my all-time cinematic heroes, so even though I didn't like the film he just directed, I was happy to see the man from a fairly close distance. 81 years old and he's still a bad-ass.