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Reviews Mixed on “J. Edgar” Movie

 
 
By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

Friday marks the official general release of the much awaited “J. Edgar” movie produced by Clint Eastwood and starring Leonardo DiCaprio.

The reviews are mixed, so I thought I’d post some  from papers around the country. The movie, way before its release, became controversial because of its suggestion that J. Edgar Hoover was having an affair with his right hand man Clyde Tolson.

I’d like to hear what you think. Send your comments to lengela@ticklethewire.com. I’ll try to publish as many as I can.

Here’s some of the reviews.

Washington Post

By Ann Hornaday
Washington Post

Anyone with strong opinions about founding FBI director J. Edgar Hoover is unlikely to come away satisfied by “J. Edgar,” Clint Eastwood’s ambitious, ultimately deflating portrait, which somehow manages to elide his worst abuses of power while making a burlesque of his personal vulnerabilities.

Eastwood and screenwriter Dustin Lance Black (“Milk”) shrewdly organize “J. Edgar” around secrets – those that Hoover wielded in order to gain and keep power for an extraordinary 48 years at the bureau and those that he kept about his own intensely guarded private life. But because Hoover so adroitly avoided leaving any kind of paper trail, much of “J. Edgar” necessarily hinges on speculation and hearsay, especially regarding his intimate personal and professional relationship with Associate FBI Director Clyde Tolson.

To read more click here.

Los Angeles Times

By Kenneth Turan
Los Angeles Times Film Critic

“J. Edgar” is a somber, enigmatic, darkly fascinating tale, and how could it be otherwise?

This brooding, shadow-drenched melodrama with strong political overtones examines the public and private lives of a strange, tortured man who had a phenomenal will to power. A man with the keenest instincts for manipulating the levers of government, he headed the omnipotent Federal Bureau of Investigation for 48 years. Though in theory he served eight presidents, in practice J. Edgar Hoover served only himself.

Starring an impressive Leonardo DiCaprio and crafted with Clint Eastwood’s usual impeccable professionalism, “J. Edgar” gets its power from the way the director’s traditional filmmaking style interacts with the revisionist thrust of Dustin Lance Black’s script.

To read more click here

The Orlando Sentinel

By ROGER MOORE
The Orlando (Fla.) Sentinel
Although the screenwriter of “Milk” didn’t script a “gay fantasia” on Hoover’s successes and monomaniacal excesses, he has written a film that provokes more inappropriate laughter than any mainstream period piece since Oliver Stone’s “Alexander.”

It’s fascinating to interpret Hoover’s career through his twin obsessions — his experiences battling Bolshevik bomb throwers in the “Red Scare” of 1919-1020 that made him fear communists more than mobsters, and the conflicted, “my big secret” that was his personal life, which made him a fussy hypocritical moralist.

But if you’re not snickering at the sight of Hoover (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his longtime “close associate” Clyde Tolson (Armie Hammer of “The Social Network”) in bathrobes, reading Hoover’s “secret files” on the sex lives of the powerful and giggling like a couple of gossipy queens, you’re going to be in the minority.

To read more click here.

The New York Times

By MANOHLA DARGIS
New York Times

Even with all the surprises that have characterized Clint Eastwood’s twilight film years, with their crepuscular tales of good and evil, the tenderness of the love story in “J. Edgar” comes as a shock.

Anchored by a forceful, vulnerable Leonardo DiCaprio, who lays bare J. Edgar Hoover’s humanity, despite the odds and an impasto of old-coot movie makeup, this latest jolt from Mr. Eastwood is a look back at a man divided and of the ties that bind private bodies with public politics and policies. With sympathy — for the individual, not his deeds — it portrays a 20th-century titan who, with secrets and bullets, a will to power and the self-promotional skills of a true star, built a citadel of information in which he burrowed deep.

To read more click here

The New York Daily News 

By Joe Numaier
New York Daily News

Despite over two hours’ worth of recalling, recanting, stonewalling and bullying, the secrets that lie at the heart of “J. Edgar” remain hidden.

That may be because director Clint Eastwood’s movie is of two minds about J. Edgar Hoover. The longtime FBI “head cop” is a hard-working, but narrow-minded patriot, an upholder of a limited definition of honor and a corruptible battler of corruption.

That can be a plus in a bio-pic, but in a movie whose scope is several decades’ worth of law and order, fair-mindedness often turns into fuzzy noncommitment.

At least Leonardo DiCaprio, grounded and sure, has commitment to spare. His portrayal of Hoover is undeniably terrific.

To read more click here.

The Wall Street Journal

By Joe Morganstern
The Wall Street Journal

As the peerlessly powerful and widely feared director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation over the course of almost five decades, J. Edgar Hoover saw himself in a constant state of war—against radicals, gangsters, Communists and any politicians, including presidents, who tried to get in his way. “J. Edgar,” with Leonardo DiCaprio in the title role, is at war with itself, and everyone loses.

Clint Eastwood’s investigation of Hoover’s life and tumultuous times seeks the cold facts behind the crime-fighter myths, the flesh-and-blood man behind the dour demeanor and the rumors of homosexuality. Yet Mr. Eastwood’s ponderous direction, a clumsy script by Dustin Lance Black and ghastly slatherings of old-age makeup all conspire to put the story at an emotional and historical distance. It’s a partially animated waxworks.

To read more click here.

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Comment from Jim Burdick
Time November 14, 2011 at 1:08 pm

The great Otto Preminger cautioned a very close friend of mine against “ever trusting an actress with thin lips, or a writer with three names.”

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