A Filmmaker's Review: 'J. Edgar' (2011)
3/5 - Good Film, Bad Release...
I totally missed this movie when it first came out. Why? Well, there were other films that were out roughly the same time that, even though they didn't star Leonardo DiCaprio, looked far more interesting than a crime drama about one of the world's most problematic FBI Agents. It was subsequently released without much press at the AFI Film Festival in the November of that year and I'm not gonna lie - it was like crickets for some reason. The best I could hope for was the movie poster on the back of an Empire Magazine issue from round about that time. It was then released six days later in the cinemas and even though we had a little bit more of a marketing campaign, I think with the grittiness of the trailer juxtaposed with the lightness of Christmas, nobody really noticed it was on TV for thirty seconds or so. The movie itself should've been released in the summer so that it could've had a wider audience, but with a budget of $35M and a profit of $84.9M, I think the film did do pretty well on its own given the fact that it wasn't pushed so much. I think people were watching it because Leonardo DiCaprio was in it.
Let's go through how exactly I came across this film at first. I was about 15 years' old when the film came out and, close to my 16th birthday - I was adamant about seeing certain films on the week they came out, but because of the lack of marketing I found behind this one, I didn't end up seeing it all the way through until I was 19 years' old. There was a time during the period in which it came out that I was seriously thinking about watching it. I had a conversation with my brother to which he responded along the lines with “It looks boring”. I didn’t end up watching it for about three years and when I did, the first thing I thought was “I wonder why this was released when it was” because it just didn’t seem fit to release a film like this around Christmas. Unfortunately, I wasn’t alone in my analysis of it, one of my friends would say the same thing when I mentioned which films I had been watching over the previous weekend. It seems like many people did watch the film, just not when it came out. Nobody wants to watch a film about an investigation regarding a dead baby during their break for Christmas, sorry guys. Let’s take a look at my fresh take on the film upon my second watch which happened last night.
J. Edgar (2011) is one of those films where the atmosphere is everything. There is a seriously dark, gritty theme to the movie and, within the confines of indoor spaces at nighttime, sometimes it can be difficult or hindered in terms of seeing what is going on. Whether this is intentional or not, I may not know - but I can guess that it has something to do with J. Edgar’s own shadowed personality in which he kept his various privacies hidden (e.g his homosexuality - I won’t say ‘alleged’ homosexuality because not only was J. Edgar actually homosexual, the word ‘alleged’ makes homosexuality seem like a crime and I won’t do that). So first of all, we have this meaning that is created by shadowing and shading, which sometimes is good - but I feel like often, this movie goes over the top with it.
DiCaprio gave a great performance. That’s all I can say. All four marks go to the way in which Leonardo DiCaprio portrays the problematic J. Edgar Hoover. I felt like it was a very accurate performance and DiCaprio pulled it off with ease even though at times he had some really shoddy dialogue to work with - he still made it work. I felt like that was a real highlight of the film and with some of the dialogue we hear, not many other actors could make it work other than Leonardo DiCaprio.
So, in this film though we have a great amount to be grateful for, there are also various improvements that could be made to make the viewing experience slightly better. To be honest, I think it’s a good film, made by some good actors, released at the wrong time and place. It should’ve been a spring/summer release, it was too heavy for Christmas and that’s why it didn’t do as well as we hoped. Overall, the movie is a fine example of a crime drama, though it needs brushing up a little.