Early reviews for Clint Eastwood’s J. Edgar have been tepid at best. Not too surprising considering Eastwood, outside of a few recent efforts, has been churning out increasingly difficult, if often uneven, work.
Scott Feinberg at Hollywood Reporter said, “My gut feeling was that I had just seen a very good film — but not one that is a slam-dunk for a best picture nomination or anything else (though I would be pretty surprised if, at the very least, DiCaprio doesn’t make it into the best actor field and the film’s showy makeup work isn’t recognized).”
Kris Tapley at Incontention adds, “Leonardo DiCaprio is exceptional in the title role, digging into an incredibly complex character, committing from frame one to the embodiment and maintaining that course without losing focus. It’s at times a broad portrayal of a broad persona, but I thought the actor found ways to dial it down and make the internal machinations of the man count. And I think it could very well carry him to that elusive first Oscar win.”
These early words shed light on what we probably should have known all along. Leonardo DiCaprio, in this field of big name actors who all don’t really stand out, is the favorite to win the Academy Award. I suppose everyone has always seen DiCaprio as something of an also-ran. A good but not great actor who shows up in Oscar races as much for his risky choices that put pause to his boyish charms as actually giving stunning performances. Actually I think DiCaprio is quite a fine actor who suffers mostly from being too giving to other actors in his protrayals. He has an incredible penchant for listening and reacting off other whims. As a result, even in his leading roles, you get the sense that he’s sharing the narrative as opposed to overtaking it.
In J. Edgar, the stage is set for DiCaprio to blow the lid off the whole Oscar race. If no other clear favorite emerges, this has the makings of a runaway victory. Two factors stand in DiCarprio’s way: 1) Jean Dujardin and Gary Oldman, who are two well-lauded actors in fine roles that could garner tons of attention from mainstream and obscure critics alike. 2) The Mickey Rourke effect. Often when a great actor has an Oscar vehicle role they peak very early, so much so that a backlash forms that takes down the contender by Oscar time. If DiCaprio comes out of the gate as the favorite he may not have the legs to still be there in four months.
DiCaprio’s win is an exciting proposition. I’m not fully on board for it just yet though I do think he remains the most obvious favorite at this point.