Eastwood’s movies weave a European mentality into our American mainstream. In Europe, in France especially, they are less anal about the three act structure, the protagonist’s arc, the “perfect” movie. The best European films seldom adhere to those rules. I’d rather see a director take great leaps than one who continually plays it safe, and Eastwood — for all his strengths and weaknesses — never plays it safe. He doesn’t have to. He’s at a place in his career and at an age when he’s sort of over the need to adapt and impress. To that end, he makes movies that are going to be less and less embraced by mainstream audiences. But this is a guy who doesn’t want to make Unforgiven 2 just to collect a paycheck or to relive past positioning in Hollywood: instead, he reasserts his dominance as an individualist director in the last chapter of his life and his career. J. Edgar fits nicely into the latter Eastwood. As opposed to the Mystic River/Million Dollar Baby, this is more Letters from Iwo Jima/Changeling/Hereafter Eastwood. For many of you that will be frustrating. But for those of us who appreciate his continual evolution, the broader statements he seems to be communicating about the human experience, J. Edgar will be yet another gnarled branch in this, Eastwood’s tree of life.

It’s hard to know what people will ultimately make of Clint Eastwood’s J. Edgar. The first thing I heard about it was in a screening of another film. A well-connected film journalist said “I heard from a friend who saw J. Edgar that it was awful, awful, awful. Armie Hammer is good but everything else…” That rumor kind of traveled around, viral monkey style, and before you knew it, that became the nutshell truthiness, even though it was only a single isolated opinion. So I arrived last night at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, expecting to see a film purported to be unwatchably bad. But what I saw was a surprisingly moving film and a loving portrait of a misunderstood American icon. That was perhaps the weirdest part: wasn’t I supposed to come out hating Hoover?

Hoover is here portrayed the way Leonardo DiCaprio described in the post-screening Q&A — as a hodgepodge of eccentricities. “We didn’t even fit them all in,” he said. Obsessed with cleanliness, lived with his mother until he was 40, a closeted homosexual. Persistent rumors assume he was a “crossdresser” but the movie refuses to encourage a slur that too easily tags Hoover as a pervert. Screenwriter Dustin Lance Black wants to humanize his sexuality by showing it for what it apparently was: closeted but true. The insinuation that he was a “crossdesser” has long been a way of kind of writing him off, painting him as a “pervert.” But in fact, the truth is that he was simply gay. He was a gay man in a high public office, at a time when investigating everyone’s secrets made it all the more essential that he reveal none of his own.

The film tells the story of the many decades Hoover ran the FBI, through several Presidents, the funniest of whom had to be Richard M. Nixon. Eastwood reserves his harshest judgment for Nixon, depicting him as an illustration of the kind of evil that can flourish when people are driven by fear. In fact, much is made of the Lindbergh baby’s kidnapping, many decades earlier, and how that one crime galvanized the country’s anxieties, and how that fear gave the FBI more freedom. Screenwriter Dustin Lance Black said in the Q&A that was one of the ways he felt J. Edgar resonated today. How long has our government been riding on the fear generated by 9/11? And before that, communism.

But if J. Edgar is anything, remarkably, it’s one of the sweetest love stories of the year. DiCaprio’s J. Edgar attaches himself to Armie Hammer as Clyde Tolson and we watch the two men through various stages of age and shared experience, all the while maintaining their commitment to never miss a lunch or a dinner together. J. Edgar’s central relationships in his life included Tolson, his mother (a marvelous Judi Dench) and his secretary, played superbly by Naomi Watts. None of these relationships were sexual. But they were such pillars of support that J. Edgar could not have lived without them. In the end, one cannot help but be moved by that.

J. Edgar is propelled by its story, unfolding choppily in vivid vignettes but with unified purpose by Black, and guided by Eastwood’s assured directing. But what sustains its thrust is DiCaprio in what has to be his deepest, best and most fully-realized performance to date. Yes, the old age makeup is jarring and bizarre at times but once you sink into it you completely forget you’re watching Leo in old age makeup. His shyness, his stuttering, his fear, his desire, his anger — all these play across Leo’s face like a seasonal storm. He’ll easily be nominated. He might very well win.

It’s easy to love J Edgar, the movie; so it’s hard to hate J. Edgar, the man, Maybe that makes me a softie. Maybe that means I don’t know enough about history. Maybe that also makes me an eternal Eastwood apologist. But in a year where there are very few films to feel passionate about, I appreciated this one for going all out and telling a story that needed to be told. Yes, it is profoundly a gay American story — it’s a film that says “this guy was gay and he was important, so isn’t it time to throw open the closet and show it’s not filled with ball-gowns?” It is also a movie that defends Hoover’s right to love the man he loved. It is a look at the underside to help us understand, not unlike Oliver Stone’s Nixon. The two films would go nicely on a double bill.

As for me, I feel lucky to live in a time when I can still watch movies made by Clint Eastwood who will stop making movies sooner rather than later. I’m admiring of the risks they took with this and I’m ready for the onslaught.

So you’re going to want to pencil in… Best Picture? Best Screenplay? Best Actor? Best Makeup? Possibility for any and all. Best Actor, you can write down with ink.

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  • john b

    after reading all the negative reviews on it so far i was ready to dismiss this film, but this write up has reignited my interest in it.

  • sartre

    “J Edgar will be yet another gnarled branch in this, Eastwood’s tree of life.”

    A highlight in a lovely piece of writing Sasha.

  • Rashad

    I’m kind of glad Leo is getting all this praise. After his performance in Shutter Island, I thought nothing would get people to notice him again.

  • austin111

    I sort of half figured as much. It’s odd how some of the reviewers are saying they don’t connect with DiCaprio’s Hoover, though. But perhaps it has to do with the fact that they all seem to be men. Both Sasha and Anne Thompson seemed to have no problem finding this a moving and interesting journey. I don’t really have any expectations of DiCaprio winning this, though. Still, I haven’t seen it so who knows. I doubt he’ll score any critics’ awards….never does. It’ll be Clooney, Fassbender, and/or Dujardin most likely to score in that arena. As a result I can’t see oscar courting Leo as the winner. Nonetheless, if the race boils down to some of the best work by 3 of hollywood’s coolest/handsomest stars, it will be more fun than most years. Oh, and don’t forget Brad Pitt.

  • drake

    best actor on the planet right now… thanks for the piece sasha

  • austin111

    @Rashad. Shutter Island was also a fine performance to a lot of people, if not you.

  • drake

    @ aulstin111

    i agree, i thought he was fantastic in shutter island as well

    so did peter travers from rolling stone “DiCaprio, in his most haunting and emotionally complex performance yet, is the vessel Scorsese uses to lead us through the film’s laby­rinth. “

  • Rashad

    Did I phrase it wrong? I thought he was fantastic in SI, but it seemed like no one noticed his performance. (Or the movie for that matter.)

  • joeyhegele

    Great review Sasha. I prefer reviews that sum up the essence of a film rather than just recap the plot.

    I definitely think Leo could win the Oscar. Not just because it is a great role, but because of all the other stuff the Academy considers. His other half from that big ship movie, Kate Winslet, recently won, so it would be lovely symmetry for him to win a few years later. He is playing gay, a historical figure, and he ages several decades. Those are also considerations.

    Ultimately he should only win if the performance is worthy. From your review and several others (even the negative ones) it seems his performance is a highlight of the film. I will definitely being putting Leo at the top of my prediction lists, as well as the film itself.

  • anewday


    Seems J Edgar’s central story touches not only females, but males, as well.

    Below is comment from ABC writer who saw it :

    “But I was enthralled by the story of his life, as it was told in this film. I found myself, despite myself, feeling genuine pity for Hoover, and at the end, tears came. That is something I’m not sure I’m happy about: I wept for J. Edgar Hoover. My Adlai Stevenson Democratic parents are shaking their heads somewhere in Heaven.”

  • Jamesintoronto

    What I love about Eastwood is that he makes movies like the ’80s and ’90s never happened. By that I mean he doesn’t use soundtrack songs to telegraph what the audience should be thinking, he doesn’t dumb down the dialogue and he makes you pay attention… all things that run contrary to a lot of films made since the early ’80s.

    Eastwood managed to make a great movie out of a mediocre book (Bridges of Madison County), took me totally by surprise with Gran Torino, and breathed new life into the underdog genre with Million Dollar Baby.

    I am still amazed at what the man can do. From Play Misty For Me through to Hereafter he surprises me with his choices. He will be sorely missed by me when he stops making films.

  • steve50

    Well, I sure wasn’t expecting this. I don’t know which surprises me more – Eastwood making a gay love story, or JEH as an empathetic character, given his historical reputation.

    Great review, Sasha – I was preparing to give this one a pass for awhile, but now I can’t wait to see it.

  • Paddy M


    Do you reckon that either Watts or Dench stand a chance of being nominated? I see you’ve added DiCaprio and Hammer to the contender tracker, but neither woman. Sure, I think DiCaprio and Hammer each stand a better chance at being nominated than Watts or Dench, but I’m expecting some attention from one and/or the other in Best Supporting Actress.

    And I wouldn’t class cross-dressing as a perversion…

  • Kevin Klawitter

    Simply on a subjective level, how would you compare Leo’s Hoover to some of the other ones, like Bob Hoskins in “Nixon” or Billy Crudup in “Public Enemies?”

    I ask because I love biopics, and knowing the subject has been portrayed in the past makes them all the more fascinating to me.

  • I always thought Eastwood’s films were kind of structured. Not a criticism, just an observation. He’s one of the few dependable working directors. His talent lives up to his celebrity too.

    That being said, J. Edgar, from the outside doesn’t look very relevant. But, I look forward to giving it a go in a week.

  • VVS

    hell of a review. Better performance than Fassbender?

  • Jenny Lee

    Great review Sasha… I’m gonna check this movie out on 11/11.

  • NPAC

    I think the problem others had with the movie was that it glosses over what Hoover was and did (he ignored organized crime and was a racist etc.) to focus on gossip about his possible gay life. So it’s no surprise that you came out of there liking the man and touched by a love story that others say is fiction.

  • Sasha Stone

    Simply on a subjective level, how would you compare Leo’s Hoover to some of the other ones, like Bob Hoskins in “Nixon” or Billy Crudup in “Public Enemies?”

    The only person I’d compare him to would be Anthony Hopkins as Nixon. Other than that, he’s beyond those you mention.

  • Sasha Stone

    after reading all the negative reviews

    It’s not a movie for everyone. Most people will say: it was all over the place, it ended ten times too many and the makeup was terrible. But I choose, as always with a great director like Eastwood, to look deeper and longer.

  • Avi

    i loved letters from iwo jima, i think its up there with million dollar and mystic river, cant wait for j edgar

  • Houstonrufus

    I haven’t been terribly excited about J Edgar, mostly because of the subject matter. But I do admire Eastwood as a director and I’m especially happy to hear Leo delivers. Thanks for such a thoughtful review, Sasha. You have such a lovely touch with words and your passion for movies always shines through.

  • austin111

    “It’s not a movie for everyone. Most people will say: it was all over the place, it ended ten times too many and the makeup was terrible. But I choose, as always with a great director like Eastwood, to look deeper and longer.”

    I look forward to a retrospective on Clint’s later work someday. My guess is that it will look much better to a lot of folks who are naysaying at the moment.

  • I thought Changeling and Letters from Iwo Jima especially were masterpieces so this is good news for me. Lately when I’ve been seeing the trailers for J. Edgar some inner DiCaprio fan goes ‘Come on, Leo!’ like he’s batting bottom of the ninth or something. lol I don’t know what that is. But it will be interesting to see what happens if I have more than one long time favorite in Best Actor. I probably won’t know who I really want to win until they’re about to present the Oscar. This is getting exciting. And at least I’ll be seeing this movie soon.

  • Jesse Crall

    It’s been strange to hear some early reviews express surprise that DiCaprio delivers such an emotional performance. Where have they been for the last decade??

    Great review, Sasha. You understand better than most the powers of Clint and Leo.

  • I was lucky enough to catch an advanced screening of the film where I live in San Francisco. I actually quite dug the makeup. Armie’s looked a little scary but I could not believe how Leo looked in it, in a good way. I think that along with his acting was such a great immersion of the character. I didn’t see it so much of a love story as much as it was a fascinating character study and biography, but the love story is definitely a beautiful one.

    Dustin Lance Black for all the screenplay awards. He managed to make it poetic, even a bit sassy, and overall engaging. And I hope that next year will be the year Leo finally wins his Oscar.

  • Unlikelyhood


  • Suze

    Di Caprio is due. He consistently gives great performances and this feels like a weird year for films. More then ever I think the Academy could be all over the place – nominating an actor from one film, a director from another – no major streaks for any one particular film. I’m actually looking forward to that kind of year. Could be fun.

  • Jerm

    LEO FTW!!!

    Everyone is gonna start kissing ass now, because of this review…just saying. Stop writing things off by their trailers, and give movies a chance before you say a performance is bad or a movie is bad….it only comes back to haunt you. I hope Leo sweeps awards!

  • Pierre de Plume

    Sasha, your fine essay provides motivation for me to see this film. I never thought Hoover could be a compelling screen character, but highlighting his longtime relationship with Colson apparently has helped.

    Regarding DiCaprio’s performance, we know that Clint elicits strong work from his actors. Sounds like he and Leo were good chemistry.

    With Dench popping up here and there this season, it wouldn’t be surprising to see her nominated for one of them.

  • Simon Warrasch

    Leonardo DiCaprio is definitely a lock for the win for the best actor oscar next year! Ok, we all know that Michael Fassbender gives the best performance of the year as a sex addict man in Steve Mc’Queens “SHAME”, but Leonardo DiCaprio has been praised for his outstanding performances since 1993 for “Gilbert Grape”! After his phenomenal work in this movie we all saw his acting talent in movies like “Jim Carrol”, “Romeo and Julia”, “Marvin’s Room”, “Titanic”, “The Beach”, “Gangs of New York”, “Cath me if you can”, “Aviator”, “The Departed”, “Blood Diamond”, “Revolutionary Road”, “Shutter Island”, “Inception” and now in “J.Edgar” i think it is time to give him his well deserved golden guy!

  • Daveylow

    Dujardin, Clooney and Fassbender all give stellar performances. So this is a tough year for awards in the male acting category.

  • Sam

    I’m going to get reamed in this thread, but let me start by saying that I’m looking forward to seeing J. Edgar. I hope it is good, and if Sasha claims it is along the lines of Letters from Iwo Jima/Changeling, that is promising.

    J. Edgar Hoover was NOT a closet homosexual. Also, he was NOT a transvestite. It is simply not true. And if Eastwood alludes to these rumors within the story, I think it will ruin the film for me. I have read a lot of material on Hoover, and concerning the rumors (or what I call character assassinations), there is no evidence for either claim. This mostly got traction after Hoover’s death, because let’s be honest, this was a widely hated man. And it is easier to make up stuff after one is dead, then while alive. Just think about it. All of those politicians, inside Washington, who wanted to get rid of Hoover never thought of bringing up these claims in order to remove him from the FBI director position?

    If anything (and I don’t subscribe to reading minds), Hoover may have been asexual. But even then, I can’t prove that. His relationship with Tolson was very close, but to allude that it was sexual in nature is immature. Can’t two men be best friends without there being some sexual element thrown in? That speaks more about individuals who believe this crap, then Hoover and Tolson.

    “Maybe that means I don’t know enough about history.”
    – I enjoyed this column Sasha, but I’m glad you admitted this, because it is obviously true.

  • Nic V

    I don’t think that Eastwood has been in a place where he thought he had too impress anyone for a very long time. I also think that there may not be any other living actor or director who has to be as satisfied with his career as Eastwood must be. He’s a man who starting taking risks a very long time ago and as he has honed his craft he’s demonstrated over and over that unlike so many others who have learned very little in their fields he has learned a great deal. One the things that I truly appreciate about Eastwood is that he can tell a story and yet not overly manipulate us as an audience. Witness Hereafter. In other hands Hereafter would have turned into one of the screens biggest soap operas of the year and under Eastwood’s helm if anything it was underwhelming. It was almost as if he deliberately decided not to pull all the possible stops out and play us. He’s intelligent and creative. He doesn’t have to flood a film with stunning visuals to capture our imagination or too make us talk about or contemplate the value of his work.

    Eastwood will be held up as an Icon In film, and I don’t mean that he isn’t already, but when film historians review the works of the last twenty years Eastwood’s work should litter their study.

    It’s wonderful to read a review that removes some of the harsh criticism of this film that has already been swirling about. Even more rewarding was to read that the characters portrayed by Judi Dench and Naomi Watts were not as portrayed in other commentaries. Thank you Sasha.

    I will be seeing this this week and can’t wait. And I’ve always thought that this was going to be the film that brought Di Caprio his long deserved Oscar.

    The one thing we all need to remember is that directors like Eastwood, Scorcese, Speilburg, even Polanski are held to a different standard than a lot of other directors and that’s because of the body of work that already exist in their in their archives.

    And for the comment about Eastwood making a gay love story? Hmmmmmm you might want too take a look at Midnight in the Garden of Evil.

  • Just think about it. All of those politicians, inside Washington, who wanted to get rid of Hoover never thought of bringing up these claims in order to remove him from the FBI director position?

    Just like all the other important people who were removed from public office in the 1930s, ’40s, ’50s, ’60s because they were closeted homosexuals. Such as… hmm… help me think of the names of all the politicians that happened to, Sam…

    Are you under the impression that it was easy to out somebody in Washington during those 4 decades, and have any evidence that it ended a lot of careers? I’d like to know what history books you’ve been reading. No seriously, they sound like fascinating stories — if you can cite one that exists.

    or does such a notion “speak more about individuals who believe that crap.”?

  • steve50

    From what I’ve read, Eastwood seriously does not want to label anybody “gay” and detract from the story he’s telling about a specific person and his relationships. He’s right in that labels tend to divert focus.

    Whatever Hoover and Tolson had was unique – probably gay, maybe platonic, no doubt frustrating under the circumstances.

    On the lighter side, the big mystery for me is – how can anybody who has Armie in the sack be so perpetually cranky? Disappointed that he’s not really twins, perhaps?

  • Pierre de Plume

    J. Edgar Hoover was NOT a closet homosexual. Also, he was NOT a transvestite. . . . there is no evidence for either claim.

    Sam, aren’t you confusing evidence with proof? Most of the time in matters like this, proof is impossible to come by. It’s true that people make assumptions based on evidence. And it’s also true that rumors — many of them possibly untrue — about Hoover and Colson go back many decades. Strictly speaking, one cannot claim Hoover was not a closet homosexual any more than one can definitely claim he was.

    No doubt lots of male friendships have existed where repressed homosexuality was present. To what degree this sexuality was openly expressed (even in private) is a matter of speculation, just as films over the years have speculated on the private moments of an infinite number of real-life characters regardless of their sexuality.

  • VVS

    my problem with Dicaprio is that I always see him in his roles. He does fine in conveying the emotional aspects of the character. But when it comes to physical transformation he struggles. I hear his voice and cadence when he talks. I see his same mannerisms that repeat from role to role. Any attempt that he has at characterizations comes off mechanical and inorganic.

  • Sam

    @ Pierre de Plume

    There is no empirical evidence. Period.

  • austin111

    “Dujardin, Clooney and Fassbender all give stellar performances. So this is a tough year for awards in the male acting category.”

    Do not forget Brad Pitt. Also some of his best work ever.

    VVS, you sound like one of several people who visit this site with always the same complaint — like some knee jerk reaction that they cannot overcome. A pity really but you must just admit that you don’t actually like DiCaprio period and be done with it. You’ll feel much better, really you will. And I’ve noticed that all actors have mannerisms that are inherent in who they are. Even Daniel Day Lewis can be accused of this if you’re willing to look closely. It’s genetic I’m afraid. Pity, that!

  • Bebe

    Word has always been that the mob had pictures of him and Clyde being intimate and thats why he went easy on the mob.

  • I’m down for a good ole gay love story, and regardless of the mixed reviews, I plan on seeing this anyway. DiCaprio does need to win some critics awards if he wants to get a serious nod for Best Actor though. But with that said, I’m still confident that Fassbender will be one of the five.

  • julian the emperor

    Quote from Rocchi’s review in Box Office Magazine. Ouch!:

    J. Edgar functions as a Wikipedia page dipped in makeup, an assemblage of half-truths, gossip, innuendo and the occasional historical fact, all drenched in latex and drained of color. It’s the cinematic equivalent of the animatronic Lincoln at Disney’s Hall of the Presidents: stiff, jerky, mechanical, fake.

  • g

    Get your Oscar speech ready Leo, I am so happy, I can’t wait to see this movie!

  • anewday

    I just watched Ebert at the Movies , and Christy Lemaire and
    Ignatiy Vishnevetsky gave J Edgar ‘two thumbs up’

    Judging by their comments they seemed to have the same reaction to the Hoover & Tolson relationship storyline as Sasha did.

    They felt both Leo and Arnie were terrific in their respective roles .

    I look forward to seeing it this week.

  • austin111

    @Julian the emperor: If it was really all that bad, it wouldn’t get any decent reviews. So Rocchi didn’t like it — all the more reason to see it, imo. I usually throw out the worst reviews of anything unless they’re all the same.

  • I’m avoiding reading the reviews for J. Edgar, since I always like to see a film and form my opinion on it without any influence. But how the film has been promoted has had me pessimistic: the obvious period-oriented color palette; the overzealous makeup jobs; the too-cute Armie Hammer and the accompanying homoerotic undertones. I’ll certainly see it the day it comes out, but i’m not holding my breath for an amazing film.

  • And also, I LOVE how you’re running “for your consideration” advertisements for “Jane Eyre” on the top of this website. It’s a terrific film and I’m hoping you running that ad pays some oscar dividends.

  • Brian D

    Whoa… I really hope I just read it wrong (twice) and I’m going to default to benefit of the doubt mode here, I hope that you aren’t saying that cross-dressing is a perversion.

    And if I didn’t read that wrong, shame on you for putting trans issues in that category.

    Maybe red-state, Michelle Bauchman-lovers might think it perverted, but it isn’t AT ALL. It’s all a part of gender identity and expression and just because some people’s don’t fit in a neat little box doesn’t mean it’s perverted.

    Like I said, I’m defaulting to benefit of the doubt mode, but that needed to be said in case I’m not the only one reading it wrong. Please tell me this isn’t what you meant to say.

  • Scott

    Early reviews aren’t very good…while I hate to see Eastwood disappoint, this is great news for Potter fans!

  • Scott

    Hmm, ok reading the review I don’t see any mention of cinematography. Based on the trailer I would have thought that to be one of the most likely categories (aside from Best Actor) it finds itself nominated in…

  • Scott

    I should probably note that I noticed the BFCA has given it as 78 so it must not be as bad as the early reviews on RT would suggest…

  • Brian D, the way I read it, the implication is that people who want to dismiss Hoover by attempting to ridicule him might equate “crossdresser” and “pervert.” You’re right to point out that we could expect that attitude from red-state right-wing types — because they think any sort pf homosexuality is perverted, right?

    Fairly likely Dustin Lance Black doesn’t share that attitude. I know Sasha doesn’t either. Notice that “pervert” is quotes in this article (so is “crossdresser” for that matter — so that should be some reassurance that the terms are being attributed to others.

    I will say this. Personally I do think it’s perverse to pretend to abhor and publicly condemn any activity while privately secretly indulging in it.

    Whether Hoover fits that definition of perverse is unproven but it’s certainly been strongly suggested. And there’s plenty of proof that red-state right-wingers fit my definition of perverse far more often that blue-state left-wingers do. That’s a fact.

    So I don’t have a problem dismissing a devious hypocrite as ridiculously perverse.

  • So I don’t have a problem dismissing a devious hypocrite as ridiculously perverse.

    Maybe I should say that I despise Roy Cohn too, but that doesn’t prevent me from recognizing Al Pacino was brilliant in Angels in America, or stop me from acknowledging that chapter of the pay was riveting drama.

    I’d be pretty surprised if the parallels between Hoover and Cohn never occurred to Dustin Lance Black.

  • Brian D

    Well as an African-American gay man — I have no problem with calling Hoover a perversion, or a stain on humanity. So thanks for the clarification. I just didn’t want anyone reading that to feel that Hoover’s particular perversion is in the same box as their gender identity.

    I’m glad I opted for benefit of the doubt.

  • steve50

    Hoover’s perversity had nothing to do with his sexual orientation – whatever is was or tried to be. It was his narcissistic political agenda. Like Cohn, his frustration and self-loathing likely fueled it, and I would dare say that a more tolerant society at the time, both political and sexual, would have diffused both of these monsters.

  • R

    I wish theyd put sasha on the rotten tomatoes meter, her reviews are excellent and a highlight of the site every oscar season.

  • I can’t wait to watch this movie, Sasha. I really like Clint Eastwood’s movies – I skipped “The Changeling” because I cannot stand A. Jolie, but am now looking forward to watching “J. Edgar”. Great post, as usual.

  • VVS

    austin, I do not hate Leo. I like him quite a bit. He’s in so many movies that I love. I just realize his shortcoming. And that’s character work. He’s not the kind of actor who transforms into characters, he makes the characters be HIM. Every role of his what it would be like if Dicaprio WAS _______. In J Edgar we are shown what J Edgar would have been like if Dicaprio WAS J Edgar.

    The actors like Gary Oldman, Christian Bale, Heath Ledger, Tom Hardy…..they transform into characters. They highlight the difference between them and their roles, not the similarities.

  • Suzanne

    I love this review; thank you. I will be there this weekend!

  • julian the emperor

    VVS: well put. Leo is a gifted hard-working actor taking on every challenge with an envious zeal, but a great, intuitive actor who can pull off a lot of interior drama or quiet emotion by the flick of an eye, a slight smile etc. he is not. He is always too aware of what he is doing, who he is portraying etc. He seems to me to be very external in his portrayals, something he pulls off because of the hard work and effort he put into his roles. But a great, intuitive actor who makes it seem effortless, even throwaway? Certainly not. We have someone like Ryan Gosling for that. Intuition is a talent you cannot easily tap into. DiCaprio achieves his best work through hard work. That is
    all very well, a different approach, a different inclination.

  • anewday

    Julian said :

    “but a great, intuitive actor who can pull off a lot of interior drama or quiet emotion by the flick of an eye, a slight smile etc. he is not. ”

    Scorsese has said that Leo is an actor who can speak volumes with just his eyes.”

    But then, Julian, why would we pay attention to the opinion of a man considered by many to be one of the greatest directors of film , when we have your opinion on Leo’s acting.

  • Sam

    “And there’s plenty of proof that red-state right-wingers fit my definition of perverse far more often that blue-state left-wingers do. That’s a fact.”
    – Ryan Adams, that has to be one of the most solipsistic comments I have ever read on this site. Since the Left has no principles/standards, just emotions, it is easy for them to demonize the Right.
    – Hoover and Tolson were best friends; nothing on record suggests otherwise. The woman who made up the cross dressing story, Susan Rosenstiel, had a known axe to grind. She would later be convicted of perjury, so her credibility is nil. The fact that people on here still believe this shows how much they have read (very little) concerning this issue.
    – FYI: The FBI followed Hoover and Tolson very closely. Do you think, had these agents obtained anything “juicy”, that it would not have gone across the wire in under an hour? But I guess facts are inconvenient things.
    – The Left has a personal disgust for J. Edgar Hoover. And I’m not going to disagree that the man had some flaws. One being that he had a tendency to use the FBI as his own personal fiefdom. But those who continually buy into the lie that Tolson and Hoover were more than close friends, despite the evidence, says more about you then Hoover/Tolson.

  • Nic V

    There is also the consideration one must give an actor when they are portraying a realized character versus a fictional character. With a character pulled from the imagination of an author you have less boundaries to work with. There is no historical data available to you to identify character traits or the inclination of speech patterns or the way they might use their hands. Compare Di Caprio’s work in the Avaitor to his work in Gangs of New York and I think you see the distinct difference in portraying a realized character and one created by imagination. I’m not saying that Gangs of New York isn’t founded or based on fact but I doubt there is much actual knowledge or information regarding the characters portrayed as there is with J Edgar or The Avaitor. Di Caprio chooses to identify character traits and then utilitizes them to refine his portrayal. If he didn’t attempt to make a study of Hoover and then use the information he gathered then we’d all end up saying “who the hell is portraying cause that sure isn’t what I know about Hoover’s behavior or how he is represented in documented archives”. I think Di Caprio gave one of his most unstudied performances in The Departed and I think that he gave one of his most studied performances in The Avaitor. Every actor is going to bring a piece themselves or many pieces to any performance, but how much they bring is probably determined by the identification of the character they are portraying. Compare Welle’s performance in Jane Eyre to Fassbenders. I actually preferred Fassbenders. But I think that’s where an actor gets to play a bit and wander with his characterization.

  • julian the emperor

    anewday: If I (or anybody else on this site, including you) followed that logic of yours, none of us would have anything to say, because none of us are Scorsese or a movie icon with “a special insight”. So either you accept that people have the right to share their opinion or you shouldn’t use a site like this at all…pretty simple. Now what’s it gonna be? If you choose NOT to use this site ever again (because really what’s the point from your perspective?), you won’t be missed…

  • julian the emperor

    “I think Di Caprio gave one of his most unstudied performances in The Departed and I think that he gave one of his most studied performances in The Aviator.”

    I think that’s true, nic v. So maybe he should cut down on the studied performances…

  • I agree with you so much on this. I was so moved by it last night, its a beautiful, unorthadox film that has wonderful performances. Hammer is a standout and along with DiCaprio and Dench deserves to be nominated. It might take a few years, but I think this film will become something we look back on with greater admiration. I think AFI will embrace this whole-heartidly

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