Saturday, November 12, 2011

J. Edgar

The Flick: J. Edgar

The Peeps: Leonardo DiCaprio, Naomi Watts (great mouth make-up!), Judi Densch, Armie Hammer, Jeffrey Donovan, Josh Lucas, Dermot Mulroney, etc, etc, etc.

The Dealio: Quite simply, this is Clint Eastwood's take on the J. Edgar Hoover mythology, with a script by Dustin Lance Black (Milk). Told in exhaustive detail, the saga is told with a cross-cut of scenes from Hoover's way-back sack that sprint to catch up with the progress of man at the current stage of the tale. This can be maddening, in a way, because we spend huge gobs of time on one era, then leapfrog through several presidents - not necessarily in order- then slip back to Hoover's childhood, to finally jet ahead to his current place in the tale. The film ends with a catch-up statement or two about the major players. Which I always appreciate. But (SPOILER ALERT!), I think I knew that Hoover was dead.

The Grading Session: 4.19 pengies out of 5. DiCaprio was outstanding in every scene, capturing, perfectly, the warring divisions within the man: the steely-eyed determination to be of service to the country he loved, as well as the mean-spirited egotist who can not bear for someone else to get the credit, or love and devotion of the public. It is important to note that he was responsible for some great innovations- bringing science, forsensics and fingerprints into the fray between law and justice and the accused. But he was also responsible for the paranoia and wholesale blurring of legal and moral lines during pivotal periods in our country's history. When asked by a friend, 'Isn't that illegal?', he puffs up like a fugu and stoutly intones, 'Sometimes it is necessary to bend the margins of legal and illegal to protect the country's best interests', thereby establishing a place for himself as a self-elected dictator and the only one who apparently knows what is the country's best interest.
Plus- stop me if you've heard this before- but a little bit of editing would have made the movie more endurable. When I asked Prendie to catch me up while I had myself a lil ol' powder room parade, he whispered back, 'Don't worry, we're telling this story in real time. You'll only miss what he ordered for lunch.' This is two hours and seventeen minutes that felt like years.

Notable Quotables: 'This is Agent---, from Dallas. The President's been shot.' 'Does anyone else know?' 'No one. I'll keep a lid on it.' ( OH? Reeeeeeeaaaaaallllllyyyyyy?! How'd that work out for ya?)

Lessons Learned: Didn't need to learn this one, but it bears repeating anyway: absolute power corrupts absolutely. Also: if a tiny, little person with a tiny, little spirit, wants to make something great out of themselves, there are two ways. But really, being a tiny, little person with a tiny little spirit, the method of choice is, inevitably, to tear down everyone else around them and stand on their wrecked remains. It is simply too hard and unappealing to do any actual work at building themselves into an actual better, bigger-hearted and greater-spirited person. Lastly this: even Clint, as talented a movie maker as he is, occasionally needs the services of a fearless, public-spirited editor. Your mileage may differ.

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