Thursday, November 10, 2011
Immediately post Film Festival, The Philadelphia Film Society got back to their weekly preview screenings in a big way, with the much anticipated Clint Eastwood film - J. Edar. Starring Leonardo DiCaprio in the title role and Naomi Watts as J. Edgar Hoover's trusted and lifetime assistant, Helen Gandy.
Films like this are why I love biopics. I was never a very good student of history and although I realize biopics are certainly no replacement for the accuracy of classes and books; they fill in hazy knowledge of what was going on in specific time periods. How certain events intersected and the origins of things we just take for granted now.
Before watching this film, what I knew of J. Edgar Hoover - he ran the FBI for a long time. I had no idea he created it, nor did I realize he served through 8 United States Presidents! And then of course, in later years, we all heard about the cross dressing. I like the way the movie handles this possible quirk - that if he wore women's clothes, it may have been as a way to channel or bring himself closer to his mother (Dame Judi Dench) once she passed. Not like Anthony Perkins in Psycho or anything that over the top, just as a moment of grief.
This film is not played for sensationalism at all. Eastwood and writer Dustin Lance Black (Milk) keep everything very grounded and gray. As if you're revisiting it all through a faded, old newspaper. It's a veritable time capsule of history: from the post WW1 red scare hysterics, to the depression era outlaws, to the Lindbergh kidnapping, and into the turmoil and assassinations of the 60's.
I've seen most of Leonardo DiCaprio's movies, not because he's in them, but despite the fact. I've never really been a fan, however; in my opinion, this is truly his best work to date. He really loses himself in Hoover, particularly as the older version.
My prediction: The film will earn no less than 5 Oscar nominations, which considering the talent behind it, including producers Ron Howard and Brian Grazer, it doesn't exactly take a crystal ball.