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November 9, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

In an apparent effort to stir up word-of-mouth for a difficult film to market, Warner Bros. is releasing the controversial J. Edgar, starring Leonardo DiCaprio, today (Wednesday), in advance of the Veterans Day weekend. The film was directed by Clint Eastwood, who himself has called it one of his “anti-tentpole” movies, referring to the big-budget productions usually released during the summer or the December holidays that are expected to earn hundreds of millions of dollars. What J. Edgar, a biopic about former FBI chief J. Edgar Hoover, has earned so far is a bundle of stellar reviews. Writing in the New York Times, Manohla Dargis concludes, “Mr. Eastwood explores the inner life of a lonely man whose fortress was also his stage. From there, surrounded by a few trusted souls, he played out a fiction in which he was as heroic as a James Cagney G-man … but finally as weak, compromised and human as those whose lives he helped crush.” Lou Lumenick in the New York Post forecasts that DiCaprio’s performance as Hoover “should put him in the running for an Oscar,” calling it a “tour de force.” Joe Neumaier in the New York Daily News writes that DiCaprio’s “portrayal of Hoover is undeniably terrific.” The film explores the many rumors about Hoover’s personal life — carefully. Clearly it shows him in a close relationship with Clyde Tolson, his assistant, with whom some say he had a homosexual relationship. But as Kenneth Turan in the Los Angeles Times observes, “At this point in time, the truth is unknowable. [Dustin Lance] Black’s persuasive script posits that the men definitely had strong feelings for each other but that Hoover, at least, could not even acknowledge, let alone act on them.” The film is being hailed by other critics for its Citizen Kane-like photography and for Eastwood’s decision to use talented makeup artists to age his characters, rather than resort to computers. “As a period biopic, J. Edgar is masterful,” writes Roger Ebert in the Chicago Sun Times. “Few films span seven decades this comfortably.” There are a handful of negative reviews, including Mick LaSalle’s in the San Francisco Chronicle which judges the film to be a “grand disappointment.” And Rex Reed in the New York Observer calls it “boring and ineffectual. There’s no passion behind it.”