“Even the historians don’t know for sure…”
It intrigued me that the film is called J. Edgar and really only uses half of Hoover’s name. Judging from the different agendas at play it doesn’t surprise me that the title is only half of its main character’s moniker. The film seems more at home when detailing the travails of the FBI than on the social aspects of Hoover’s life.
Absolute power corrupts absolutely. No one may represent that more than J. Edgar Hoover (Leonardo DiCaprio). He started out relatively innocuously in 1919 and gradually rose to be director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) – a position that Hoover would hold for 48 years and through 8 presidents and would eventually die in the saddle.
He would gain and hold on to that power by all of the secrets he amassed and held on to. We’ll never know because his longtime, lifetime secretary Helen Gandy (Naomi Watts) destroyed those files when Hoover died.
He was also a man of secrets since it’s been speculated that he and longtime companion Clyde Tolson (Armie Hammer) were lovers and he was raised by the stern Anna (Judi Dench). Through it all we can without a doubt point out a consistent dedication to the Bureau.
I think J. Edgar suffers from cross purposes. Screenwriter Dustin Lance Black appears to want to focus on Hoover’s closeted sexuality and director Clint Eastwood seems more at home depicting the formation of the FBI and Hoover’s younger years.
With the destruction of much of Hoover’s personal matters, we really have no concrete proof if he and Tolson were lovers. All that appears to have life in gossip, a subject in which Hoover both reveled and bargained in (although his wiretapping got more concrete evidence than whispers).
DiCaprio does well in showing the dichotomy of the man, but still shows that his one true love was the FBI. Gandy too is wed to the agency. Tolson not so much so, but Hammer portrays him so archly and sashshaying that I wondered how close to reality that was. We have more footage of Hoover than I found of Tolson.
They did seem extremely close in reality, but jumping on the gay bandwagon seems like much high school drama. A man should be judged by his works and Hoover had both good and evil. Depending on your opinion of him you’ll swerve heavily towards one of those poles.
On one hand, he was a pioneer in forensic investigation and law enforcement but on the other he held on to power with thinly veiled threats and spying. Such an interesting subject should make a more interesting movie. I think the battle between the filmmakers, whether real or imagined on my part, bled over into the film. Not to mention some production problems.
DiCaprio does act well, but I never bought him physically as Hoover. Michael Shannon would have been a much better fit and he’s a great actor as well, but if you can get a star, not that Shannon’s isn’t rising, you get them. What also doesn’t help is that the makeup is not very good.
The old Hoover job is decent enough, though I swear I could see a tear in one scene and certainly the lines of the mask, the Tolson makeup is laughable. I just got the feeling that Eastwood wasn’t too interested in the agenda and the film suffers for it.
J. Edgar is presented in a 1080p high definition transfer (2.40:1). The only special feature, albeit in high definition, is the 18 minute “The Most Powerful Man in the World” making of. Ironically, Eastwood doesn’t appear very often in it. I found that odd, but when he does he’s very noncommittal. Those that appear to have an agenda seem more willing to pop up and espouse them.
J. Edgar should be more interesting than it really is. With a subject of such notoriety, you’d think so. The screen seems more speculation and gossip than I would’ve liked, but there are some good bits but they tend to get drowned out in the less polished parts.
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