‘J. Edgar’ gets an A for makeup, an Ehh for everything else

J. Edgar (2011)

Directed by Clint Eastwood

6.5/10  R

For 48 years, J. Edgar Hoover ran the FBI, serving under 8 different Presidents. He was “the most powerful man in the world.” In the new biopic, directed by Clint Eastwood, his amazing story is finally told.

Narrated by the aging chief in the 1960’s, near the time of his end, J. Edgar ( Leonardo DiCaprio) tells the story of the leader’s rise to power and subsequent fall from it. From his entry into the Department of Justice, to the disappearance of the Lindbergh baby, to the technology that led to fingerprint recognition, to his relationship with his assistant Clyde Tolson (Armie Hammer), a whole series of interesting tales are told in the film. In the end, the aged man meets his end in the Nixon era.

I have always been a fan of a good biopic, so when a Clint Eastwood-directed, DiCaprio-starring biopic of a man I knew little of was announced, I was naturally interested. Filled with interesting facts, terrific period costumes, and a gripping narrative plot, J. Edgar definitely doesn’t disappoint fans of this genre. The non-linear storyline made the movie watchable, but with DiCaprio playing both the young and the old Hoover (with incredible flexibility, I may add) it got a bit confusing at times.

Costume design and makeup, often coupled together as either good or bad, struck two differing chords with me. On one hand, the period attire, cars, homes, and everything were great. Charles Lindbergh was played tremendously (the clothing was perfect) by Josh Lucas. On the other hand, the make-up, used namely for the aging (almost 30 years from one line to the next) was hit or miss. DiCaprio aged wonderfully, with a full, yet natural looking face. His partner, Hammer, wasn’t so graceful, and his make-up looked caked on, unfinished, and unnaturally old. The only other character with significant aging makeup, Edgar’s secretary, wasn’t shown enough that I believed it was even significant that she needed made up for her older role, and the character would have worked with a similar-looking, older actress.

The film, at 2 hours and 17 minutes, seemed even longer, but it’s not too long. It is a rare feat for a biopic to be gripping and suspenseful, but J. Edgar manages. How great is Leonardo DiCaprio? From What’s Eating Gilbert Grape to Titanic to Inception, he never seems to age, and never loses that DiCaprio charm and acting talent. And Armie Hammer, fresh off his role as the Winklevoss twins in The Social Network, is terrific as the “daffodil” Tolson. His makeup doesn’t come off as realistic as DiCaprio’s, but his younger role was great.

J. Edgar tells the amazing story of an amazing man, and doesn’t fail to end with a stunner. The costumes are great, the script is well-written, and, c’mon, it’s Clint Eastwood and Leonardo DiCaprio.

J. Edgar is on Blu-ray and DVD.

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11 thoughts on “‘J. Edgar’ gets an A for makeup, an Ehh for everything else

  1. Good review. There are problems with the story mainly because it feels like we are just going through all of these events that happened in Hoover’s life, without any real connection or anything. However, DiCaprio’s performance is great and Eastwood really does know how to direct any type of film and at least bring out some rich drama with its story even if it may be a bit muddled. Check out my review when you get the chance.

  2. Yeah, spanning so many decades sometimes makes for a confusing narrative, but I thought the script did a great job at showing us a good side of Hoover, plus Eastwood’s direction was just so surehanded and DiCaprio’s performance (distracting old-age makeup aside) was just stellar. So I quite liked this one really, as I do everything Eastwood does. Good review!

    1. Thanks for reading! I’ve heard a lot of comments about Leo’s make-up, but I thought his was the best of the three! Either way, great directing and brilliant acting on Leo’s part.

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