On Friday, as I was watching the new Oscar contender from Clint Eastwood, J. Edgar, something rather odd happened.
Without giving out in spoilers, here’s what was happening on screen: Leonardo DiCaprio (playing J. Edgar Hoover, the first director of the F.B.I.) had just offered a job to Clyde (played by Armie Hammer). Clyde — who we’ve been told has “no interest in women” — accepts on the condition that he and Edgar have lunch and dinner together everyday. As soon as Clyde gave his condition, I heard it.
It was coming from several rows behind us so I glanced over my shoulder and, brushing a strand of my naturally red hair out of my eyes, I saw the source of all this commentary. Two men, sitting on the top row. Judging from their bull necks and the globby roundness of their bodies, they were former athletes-turned-movie-critics. They both wore baseball caps and there was an empty seat between them which, as I know from years of observing the odd social rituals of the male species, probably meant that they had come to the film together but they were too scared of accidentally touching arms to actually sit next to each other. (Seriously, what’s up with that?) Anyway, I held my perfectly manicured middle finger to my lips, gave them a nice, long “shhhhhhhhhh!,” and then turned back to the movie.
A bit later into the film, Leonardo DiCaprio and Armie Hammer had a violent wrestling match which ended up with DiCaprio kissing Hammer.
And oh my God, you would have thought that the world was ending.
“EWWWWWWWWWW!” it started.
“GAWD, MAN! GAWD!” it continued.
“THAT’S SICK, MAN, SICK! UGGGGHHHHHHHHHH!”
And it just kept going. “EWWWWWWWWW! GAWD, DISGUSTING! EWWWWW!”
All of this from the same two idiots. I again looked over my shoulder at them, gave them my little “shhhhh!” command but I doubt they noticed because one of them was staring at the ceiling while punching the chair in front of him while the other was staring at the floor, shaking his head and going, “DAMN, MAN! DAMN!”
And, I do not kid, this went on for like the next 15 minutes.
(Incidentally, this is only point in the film in which DiCaprio is seen to actually kiss anyone.)
Here’s a few random thoughts inspired by these two “gentlemen:”
1) Did the two gentleman not know which film they had bought tickets for?
2) Did they not know that J. Edgar is a biopic about J. Edgar Hoover, a man who most historians seem to agree was probably gay?
3) Were the two men illiterate or had they just not bothered to read any of the literally hundreds of reviews of J. Edgar, the majority of which mentioned that J. Edgar Hoover is assumed by many to have been gay?
4) Were these two guys — both of whom appeared to be a lot older than me — unaware that J. Edgar Hoover was gay? Because, seriously, I knew he was gay before seeing the film and I’m a part of the notoriously ignorant Wikipedia generation that knows nothing and is proud of it.
5) Did not the fact that J. Edgar has been advertised as being “the latest film from the writer of Milk,” not clue them into the possibility that this film might feature at least one gay character?
6) Finally — is this not 2011? I mean, did these two guys just wake up one day in pre-Project Runway America, found themselves a time machine, and then decided to transport themselves to 2011 just so they could see a movie?
Seriously, guys, some people are gay. Deal with it.
As for the movie itself, it’s definitely an improvement over Eastwood’s last film, the absolutely awful Hereafter. It’s a long movie but it doesn’t drag and, even though it’s a bit too self-conscious in its attempts to be a “great film,” it still has its entertaining moments. DiCaprio, Hammer, Judi Dench, Jeffrey Donovan and Naomi Watts all give excellent performances and DiCaprio’s “old age” makeup is actually a bit more effective than you’d guess from the trailer.
That said, J. Edgar shares one major flaw with Hereafter and it’s a big one. Both films attempt to use several different stories to paint one big picture and, in both cases, all of the different stories simply fail to come together. The sequences in which J. Edgar is a young man searching for the Lindbergh Baby and railing against gangsters are exciting and consistently interesting. However, the scenes in which Hoover — now an old, paranoid man — struggles to write his memoirs and attempts to blackmail Martin Luther King, are heavy-handed, predictable, and ultimately rather cartoonish.
The end result is a film that is always watchable and frequently fascinating but also one that is also fatally uneven and ultimately frustrating. It’s nowhere close to being the best film of the year but it is one of the more interesting.