Top positive review
191 people found this helpful
Choose one name and go by it...
on January 7, 2012
A scene at a clothing store in which John Edgar Hoover is told he has bad credit finds him telling them that they are incorrect, they must be speaking of another John Hoover. They ask if he is indeed John Hoover and he says yes but adds that he signs his name different ways, not usually just plainly as John Hoover but with his middle name or E initial included (his mother did always call him Edgar). The shop owner then tells Hoover to open up a new account and sign it with one name and to go by that name. John takes the application form and writes J. Edgar Hoover.
To me this scene is symbollic of the larger film. J. Edgar Hoover is a film about a man who, like many of us, had many sides and aspects that composed who he was. He was greatly conflicted about which side he should portray publicly and stumbled rather awkwardly in his younger years, illustrated wonderfully in the film, until finally deciding that J. Edgar Hoover was who he was going to be. That was the side he was going to live publicly and the person he was going to be, right or wrong, with full conviction. The rest of the film shows us the consequent problems, struggles and complications that follow from this choice.
I was concerned that this film wouldn't live up to my expectations, others have been rating it rather ordinary and others negatively, few seem really excited about it after having viewed it. In a way I can see where they are coming from. It is a long film with dark moody colors, almost as if Eastwood wanted it to be black and white, and a lot of dialogue that moves quite fast without much regard for helping the audience along or spelling things out. All that aside, I thoroughly enjoyed this film and while it didn't blow my mind or leave me with any great revelations about my own life it was a great movie experience and had me thinking and entertained the entire time I was watching it.
I'm not sure where all the more negative or critical reviews are coming from, perhaps people have high standards from Eastwood and expected something groundbreaking, perhaps they just expected something different, but after all the negative or ho-hum opinions I had heard about this film I was pleasantly surprised and recommend it for fans of drama or biopics. I especially recommend it for those like myself who have been waiting for a more compelling film this movie-going season.
Perhaps I enjoyed it more because I have seen a truly terrible line of recent films in cinemas, Jack and Jill being the latest before seeing this (that movie was awful, so awful. I thought it would be bad but in an over the top funny way, it was just bad). So maybe my enjoyment was raised during this film because other recent films have left me underwhelmed and bored or wanting my money back. I haven't seen an excellently crafted film in theaters since The Help and haven't even thought one merited repeat viewings since the surprise that was 50/50. This film didn't knock me out but I will definitely watch it again and will likely even buy it on Blu-ray because I want it to be part of my collection and think it will become more engaging upon future viewings.
People are complaining about the old age make up, it never bothered me once despite other reviewer comments making me more critical than usual. People say there are many impersonations of presidents and such that are distracting, the only one that felt as much to me was Richard Nixon's brief appearance towards the end because it was so over the top. People say it drags, but I was never wanting for it to hurry or speed along, I was always compelled with what was on screen. There are complaints that the broken narrative is confusing and jumps too much, it's fairly straightforward with only two timelines occuring. Hoover in his old age is dictating his past for a manuscript and both these timelines are otherwise chronological and move forward with one another. People say there is no real message or overriding theme to speak of, I think deeper digging and repeat viewings will find them more well constructed than others are giving credit right now. Most of all though, even if some find merit to these criticisms I don't find that any of them would keep the film from being enjoyable as a whole.
This film may be getting less positive reviews because people thought it could have been so many things that it isn't. In the end I feel Eastwood and the writer picked a direction and identity for the film and much like J. Edgar they decided to move forward with full conviction. It is what it is and any negatives don't outweigh all the positives it brings in my opinion, but everyone will judge the film differently I suppose, much like everyone has different opinions on J. Edgar Hoover the man.
It may also help me that I'm very interested in history and this time period. Also in how institutions such as the FBI got built up and came to be (the film does an excellent job at explaining how the bureau slowly found ways to gain power and independence). Anyways, give this film a chance, I give it five stars because I may not have LOVED the film but I did love the experience of watching it, if that makes sense.