Monday, March 11, 2013

J. Edgar. C+

Clint Eastwood does what he can with J. Edgar, and its strengths, few as they are, I would largely attribute to him. Yet unfortunately Eastwood needs masterful screenplays to make good movies and in recent years the scripts he's picked have been anything but. With Eastwood, you pretty much know what you're going to get every time. If he gets a great screenplay he'll turn it into a dynamite movie, much like folks like Howard Hawks or Robert Wise. But with J. Edgar, screenwriter Dustin Lance Black has written something quite dull, showing he has no idea what to do with this material. Well, actually, I imagine he would have loved to make a film geared more towards Hoover's relationship with Clyde Tolson, but he seems pressured by the Hollywood biopic template in which the structural plan is like that of a history textbook. To make this work the movie would have needed to be much longer (at 137 minutes, it's fairly short considering how much is packed into it) or Black would have needed to trim various story elements or just cut them out completely in order to focus on other aspects of the story that deserve more attention. Essentially it comes down to Hoover's line at the end of the film when he states the power of love and that it is far stronger than hate ever will be. I suppose this is what Black wants the movie to be about, but rather than having Hoover announce it at the end it would have been better to show this idea throughout the entire film. As it stands the line doesn't pack much of a punch because Black is so focused on so much that issues of love and hate are murky at best. 

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