Skip to main content

Style Magazine

Film Review: J. Edgar

Nov 19, 2011 01:12AM ● By Wendy Sipple

As the title suggests, the movie follows the rise and ascension of J. Edgar Hoover and how he forms the FBI. The movie stays true to the political factors and sprinkles in some private life information that may be more loosely based on reality. The story is told from Hoover’s perspective and gives some insight into a solitary man who respects loyalty, organization and has an odd need of acceptance and power.

The events and subject could have been rather interesting, however, J. Edgar as a character is as dull, drab and uninteresting as they come. Since the movie follows Hoover exclusively, the movie moves at a snail’s pace and despite what should have been interesting historical events playing out on screen I fought the urge to sleep through almost the entire film. So disappointing because I actually quite enjoy films of historical figures.

I can’t help but to think that there was an interesting movie to be told from Hoover’s life. If the film had concentrated on a smaller portion of his life -- perhaps as a crime drama instead -- the film makers may have been able to save this movie. Hoover was brilliant and driven but a deeply flawed person as well. His flaws and mannerisms do not make him a sympathetic or even a fun character to follow. So by not filling the screen with entertaining supporting characters to fill the void the movie doesn’t leave much for the audience to connect with.

Clint Eastwood has become a semi-dependable director over the past few decades -- I find that his films are hit and miss. When he has interesting stories his slow pacing helps give time to watch the characters come to life. When the subject matter suffers -- like it does in this film -- his lethargic pace makes a mediocre film become a battle of will to get through.

It would be hard to fault the performances in this film. Leonardo DiCaprio and the rest of the cast do their best to accurately depict their respective characters. DiCaprio performs the dialect and the mannerisms of Hoover fairly accurately and is consistent with it throughout the film.

The production values were incredibly high and they recreated the historical time period very well. There were a lot of great details in the set design and backgrounds that didn’t go unnoticed. I thought the choice in color scheme was done nicely too. It gave the movie a feel of a black and white film without actually resorting to black and white. Stylistically I thought those decisions were solid.

Ultimately the story and the man were not great subjects for entertainment. Perhaps Hoover would make a better supporting character. In the right hands, maybe a filmmaker that would throw historical accuracy aside and just go for the entertainment value, the movie may have had some pop. But this movie is as dry as a boring history teacher giving a long lecture. Near the end they throw in some scenes of cross-dressing for shock value, but few are awake by that point and it does nothing to breathe life into the movie. J. Edgar may be a film history buffs will enjoy, but most will not.

Films like J. Edgar – Nixon, Frost/Nixon and The King’s Speech


Justin Buettner is Style's resident movie dude! How did he get this role? Well, he graduated from Loyola Marymount University with a Bachelor of Arts in film Production and a duel minor in Animation and Business with an emphasis in the entertainment field. He later went on to work on several independent films in various key roles including writer and later worked in the special effects field as a motion capture artist. He has since relocated to the Sacramento area with his family and continues writing for small independent films in addition to his movie reviews for Style Magazine.

Want more? Check out the Flicks with Style Facebook Page!