J. Edgar Blu-ray l DVD
DIRECTOR: Clint Eastwood
WRITER: Dustin Lance Black
STARRING: Leonardo DiCaprio, Naomi Watts, Armie Hammer, Judi Dench
RELEASE DATE: February 21, 2012
When a historical drama directed by the one and only Clint Eastwood (who also produced and created the original score) starring Leonardo DiCaprio comes along, it fits quite perfectly into what has come to be known as “Oscar Bait”: a movie that looks made specifically for awards season.
But when the Academy Award nominees were announced back in January, not only did J. Edgar get passed over for the biggest category, Best Picture, but it was passed over for all categories. No nod for DiCaprio’s performance. Nothing for Eastwood’s directing or music. Not even a nomination for makeup.
So why was it that J. Edgar went with few award nominations and no Oscar nods whatsoever? Was it that the movie was just not so great, or was it snubbed? Well…that’s simply a matter of opinion, friends, and I shall give you mine.
J. Edgar is, as mentioned, a historical drama and semi-biopic that tells the story of J. Edgar Hoover (DiCaprio), the man who would become the first director of the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) and institute many of the crime-solving technologies still used today, such as fingerprinting and forensic science labs.
In addition to the work he did, the movie paints an unconfirmed picture of Hoover’s personal life: his often anti-social younger days, filled almost only by the company of his mother (Judi Dench); his awkwardness when it comes to the opposite sex, including his future longtime faithful secretary (Naomi Watts); his exceptionally close bond with his eventual right-hand man (Armie Hammer).
The thing about Mr. Hoover, however, is the mysteries that still surround him and also his personal life to this very day…almost 40 years after his death. He did as good a job as any protecting his secrets, right down to the destruction of piles of files desperately wanted by a lot of very important people. It is because of this that the movie isn’t completely factual, and must fill in some of the blanks as it sees fit.
As for the question above—did the movie get snubbed of Oscar nominations or not? It really depends on the category. I don’t think it should have been nominated for Best Picture, but I do think you could make a strong case for DiCaprio as actor and for the makeup category, which only had three nominees in it.
DiCaprio is impressive as Hoover and the makeup work done to transform him is remarkable, especially in his older age. Supporting cast including Watts, Hammer, Dench, and an impressive lineup of character actors also deliver solid performances, as well.
The movie itself isn’t necessarily a bad movie—I personally thought it was all right, though I don’t see myself watching it again and that can be damaging to an overall opinion—but the problem is that it can be kind of boring (as much as that pains me to say about anything involving Eastwood) and lagging. At over two hours long and mostly consisting of dialogue the casual movie-watching audience may not find much appeal in it, whereas those who love history and movies (mostly) based on history could be more satisfied.
Speaking of history, the movie feels more like a lengthy History Channel special with an exceptionally large budget than a movie. It can be interesting at times, but as a film there’s not really an enthralling story so much as an observation of historical events with a little dramatization mixed in for effect. I’m not sure if this is because of the way the movie was made or if Hoover’s life and the lack of solid details about it crippled its presentation.
Overall there’s some redeeming qualities in J. Edgar and I was especially impressed by the performances of the film and the makeup work in turning some of these actors much older. That said, there are some flaws that come with the package and it’s not something everyone will enjoy. Approach it knowing that it can move a tad slow here and there and you may find something to appreciate in it, but don’t seek it out looking for Eastwood’s best work.
Ultimately I think the previously mentioned “Oscar bait” is a fitting title for the movie, but said flaws turned off the masses and that was reflected in its inability to catch the attention of Oscar and his golden adoration.
Unfortunately there’s not a whole lot of special features to enjoy. In fact there’s only one, not counting the DVD and digital copy those who pick up the Blu-ray will get.
The only extra feature is called J. Edgar: The Most Powerful Man in the World. It looks at the history of the real life of the man, with Eastwood, DiCaprio, writer Dustin Lance Black, and others involved with making the movie talking about the history from which their movie is based.