Oscar season is upon us. And that means it's time for some biopics. In J. Edgar, directed by Clint Eastwood, Leonardo DiCaprio plays J. Edgar Hoover, the polarizing founder of the FBI who's credited with fathering our modern law enforcement system, and blamed for conducting illegal surveillance on hundreds of citizens. The film, which opened this week, also delves into the personal life of Hoover, whom many suspect was secretly gay. One critic dismisses the film as "indifferent Oscar bait." Is it?
This film is lame and cowardly: J. Edgar is "a mendacious, muddled, sub-mediocre mess that turns some of the most explosive episodes of the 20th century into bad domestic melodrama," says Andrew O'Hehir at Salon. The film fails to even mention the Red Scare of the 1950s, Hoover's racism, his unconstitutional secret surveillance on "suspected Commies," or his effort to undermine Martin Luther King Jr. and the civil rights movement. "Hoover was as close as we've ever come (so far) to having an unelected dictator." But this "tepid" movie reduces him to a closeted gay man whose "real legacy is found in CSI Miami."
"J. Edgar: Clint Eastwood's lame and insulting Hoover biopic"
It's all about Leo's statue: "DiCaprio is one of the best actors of his generation, and he delivers a solid performance here — but it is a Performance," says Jim Vejvoda at IGN. It conjures "Sean Penn's Oscar-bait turn in Milk." The film has some interesting moments, but it fails to take a position on its polarizing subject. "A figure as divisive and compelling as J. Edgar Hoover demands a movie that provokes some kind of debate other than whether Leonardo DiCaprio will win an Oscar."
"J. Edgar Review"
C'mon. The movie is poignant and complex: "J. Edgar is yet another movingly elegiac, brilliantly acted effort from director Clint Eastwood and is probably going to land Leonardo DiCaprio his first Academy Award for Best Actor," says James Verniere at the Boston Herald. The talented actor is terrific. A scene in which Hoover dons his dying mother's dress and jewelry is especially moving. At its core, J. Edgar is "a story about the love that dare not speak its name between J. Edgar Hoover and bon vivant, lifelong friend, and colleague Clyde Tolson." And in that regard, it delivers.
"Edgar worth investigating"