Warning : Do not read this article (yet), not if you’re about to see this movie. Spoiler Alert.
Jean D’Ormesson recently declared he would have made an abysmal politician because of his tendancy to get too much of his opponents’ arguments. Without admitting a weakness, I happen to do the same… sometimes only.
Last night, greatly accompanied but influenced by the Joneses’ critics, I went and sat through all of J.Edgar, the new Clint Eastwood’s movie, starring my so dear Leonardo Dicaprio.
While I was watching C. Elias Eastwood telling us the story of J.Edgar Hoover, the FBI’s founder as we know it today, I was literally appalled by one comment I heard earlier in the day: « This is not GREAT Eastwood material ». How could it be so?
The man is directing a biopic about one of the most influent figure of the 20th century. He could have just told us the story following a chronological logic punctuated with few effects and ups and downs. End of story. But no, he transformed it.
He deconstructs it like a puzzle, to the point that he carries you to different periods of time, without any order other than the thread of information and explanations to what’s preceding and what’s coming next, without even explicitly contextualizing the moment we’ve been invited to, you just have to guess that part.
He makes honest sad scenes become funny. But only the audience can laugh, not the characters living the situation. Eastwood shows us irony or cynicism thanks to his invisible influence.
He points towards what’s there to see: the old E.J facing another old declining man and demanding of him that the latter speaks with clarity despite his recent stroke, and there, you see E.J ‘s mother, always pushing him to higher heights, speaking to him, a very young child who has to overcome enunciation problems, among many other things. Later, there you are shown a man in his seventies discovering the old man he loves dead, but there you only see a rigid white body, an envelope, but no soul inside anymore.
Not only he guides you but he reveals things to you. At the end of the movie, you discover that about 20 minutes of what you’ve seen is a lie. He fooled you. And you smiled at it.
So what else is there to expect? A little more of Transformers action in a biopic about the hesitating debuts of the FBI in the 1920’s troubled times?
Every director has his style: Burton, Bay, Newell, Allen… Hasn’t Eastwood made a movie that did not reflect his style? Without a certain atmosphere, a main thread? Did he not tell the story his very own way?
As long as M.Eastwood chose to make this movie as it is and is truly happy with his work, I’m fine with it. Who else, besides M. Eastwood, can decide whether “This is some great Eastwood material?” or not. Had M. Eastwood left his body during the movie making? Does he not possess himself from time to time and does his spirit only showing occasionally? Had he “stayed exactly the same”, some would have accused him of… “staying exactly the same”. Had he wanted to reinvent himself and his work, some would have despised this change just as much.
To back up all this reflexion, the starring actor really does his part and drowns so much into the role that you actually ask yourself while going out in the winter « Wait, was it DiCaprio there, I mean, like the all time? ».
Not all critics seem to agree. There is the “long and boring movie” team and the “great job!” team.
Meeting or not internal satisfactions, the judgment becomes subjective, but not universal. Criticizing a movie that objectively doesn’t break with Eastwood’s style this way is just giving in to a general atmosphere of pretention.
The only question that really matters here is « WHEN will Leonardo DiCaprio get an Oscar for Christ’s sake? ».