Here are some things I learned as a result of watching this movie.
1. Anyone can look ugly with a little makeup.
2. J. Edgar Hoover may or may not have been gay, and may or may not have cross-dressed.
3. Jeffrey Donovan should stay on the USA Network and just never leave.
4. Not even Clint Eastwood can do a good Martin Scorsese impression.
5. Not even Clint Eastwood can do a good Christopher Nolan impression.
Please allow me to elaborate on these numbered points. I number them because I care, and because I’m a nerdy list freak.
1. Holy hell, the makeup in this movie was bad. I tried incredibly hard to suspend my disbelief, to imagine that it wasn’t beautiful Leo DiCaprio up there with fat cheeks and wrinkly lips and several layers of padding under his oversized suit. Leo is Leo in any role, which is unfortunate because he’s such a fucking great actor. It’s just that he has such a distinct, recognizable, boyish face. Even though they aged him as best as they possibly could, he could never quite escape his Leo-ness. He is no Tom Hanks, or Fred Armisen for that matter, in the chameleon department. Armie Hammer looked equally terrible in his super-obvious makeup, though I think his acting in this movie was even better than the overtime he pulled in The Social Network. Seriously. Hammer. If anything actually deserves a nomination from this film, it’s him. Which is to say that this thing will get nominated in the Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Actor categories, probably none of which it actually deserves. Anyway, at least Naomi Watts looked halfway decent in her old lady makeup.
2. I think I forgot basically everything from my AP US History class, because I had no recollection of learning anything like this about J. Edgar Hoover! I’m sure most of it was dramatized for… dramatic effect, but still. Fascinating. You want Edgar and Clyde Tolson to be lovers, you want to see all his FBI dreams come true, and you are stoked when you find out that Nixon never got ahold of his secret files. What a fascinating, weird man. I kind of love it that such a quirky guy got so far in our government. Better quirky than idiotic, I say.
3. Good god almighty, RFK and JFK and all the other late K’s must be rolling in their graves at the sound of Donovan’s butchering of their accent. I heard that the miniseries The Kennedys was an abomination, but this “impression” was on a whole new level of bad. Like, really, how could anyone have let this through editing? I see the resemblance between Donovan and RFK, obviously, so it makes sense why they cast him. But Burn Notice does not a regional accent specialist make. No one has a Boston accent in Miami, and that was made abundantly clear in this movie.
4. I seriously went through this whole movie thinking that Scorsese had directed it, and thinking that it was a bad Scorsese movie. Now I think it’s a mediocre Eastwood movie. Sorry, Clint, you’re my homeboy, but this is not your best effort.
5. Furthermore, nobody fucks with a timeline like Christopher Nolan. Let that man work his magic with timejumps, and stick to chronological order like everyone else. We can’t all do Memento.
So, yeah. In case you couldn’t tell, I was massively disappointed by this movie. It says a lot when Leo first appears on the screen in old man makeup and the entire theater GASPS in horror. At least Ed Westwick got some screen time as one of Hoover’s many suited-up scribes, though after awhile, all the dudes in suits in this movie start to look the same. By the end, DiCaprio and Hammer don’t resemble anything human. A pity, too, because this telling of Hoover’s story would have benefitted from a little more personality.