Reviewed by: Jeremy Landes
How accurate are the events depicted in this film? Did the book’s author and screenwriter have an agenda?
lack of receiving or giving love
secret private life
What about gays needs to change? Answer
It may not be what you think.
Read stories about those who have struggled with homosexuality
|Featuring:||Leonardo DiCaprio … J. Edgar Hoover
Naomi Watts … Helen Gandy
Armie Hammer … Clyde Tolson
Dermot Mulroney … Colonel Schwarzkopf
Ed Westwick … Agent Smith
Jeffrey Donovan … Robert F. Kennedy
Josh Lucas … Charles Lindbergh
Adam Driver … Walter Lyle
Lea Thompson … Lela Rogers
Kaitlyn Dever … Palmer’s Daughter
Judi Dench … Anne Marie Hoover
Clint Eastwood … producer
Brian Grazer … producer
Ron Howard … producer
Robert Lorenz … producer
|Distributor:||Warner Bros. Pictures|
“The most powerful man in the world”
Evil men with foreign agendas are threatening the U.S.A. They are planting bombs outside public officials’ homes, waging war on the government and provoking fear in the hearts of civilians. Local police seem ill-equipped to locate these enemies, so the federal government begins demanding more power to protect citizens from further terrorist incidents.
If the preceding sentences seem ripped from today’s headlines, then that’s a prime point of “J. Edgar,” a fictionalized biopic detailing the rise to power of a power-hungry tyrant from 1919 until his death in 1972. The filmmakers are illuminating forgotten chapters of America’s past dealings with radical Communists, because they want to draw a parallel with current government policies that, in their view, seek to avert terrorism threats by violating peoples” freedoms and privacy.
The character of J. Edgar Hoover, as portrayed by Leonardo DiCaprio from age 24 to 77, remains largely the same kind of stubborn, self-righteous person, except in appearance, throughout the long film. The pace is brisk and never less than interesting from an historical viewpoint Hoover kept secret files about lots of famous politicians and movie stars, using these to his own advantage, whenever the occasion demanded it. The film allows us to follow a leader’s journey that’s spiraling down toward a lonely end—never really allowing himself to love nor be loved by anyone other than his domineering mother who seemingly sets the angry tone for his life.
Toward the middle of the film, Hoover and his longtime FBI associate, Clyde Tolson, seem to be moving toward a homosexual relationship, a subject of historical controversy. Director Clint Eastwood (Oscar® winner for “Unforgiven” and “Million Dollar Baby”) and the screenwriter Dustin Lance Black (Oscar® winner for “Milk”) choose not to imply that sex was happening between the men. Instead, they infer that Hoover continually repressed his love for Tolson, giving no one access into his heart and life. This is supposed to be the sad part of the film, as evidenced by Eastwood’s mournful piano playing in the background while DiCaprio cries alone in his room, wearing his mother’s clothing. Besides this adult theme, the film has been rated R because of some violence and some strong language used during a few parts of the film.
“J. Edgar” is a sad film to watch, but not because of Hoover’s repressed love for Tolson. The character is pitiful to watch as he becomes an incorrigible liar, a lawbreaker, and manipulator, judging and condemning others, while arrogantly telling exaggerated stories from his years of running the FBI. Though he achieved some legitimate success in modernizing criminal justice through the use of fingerprint identification, he’s constantly grasping for more glory based on false information. This is no role model.
DiCaprio’s performance as Hoover is an amazing transformation. The actor’s work enables you to actually sympathize with a man whom many considered a monster. Judi Dench plays Hoover’s mother and conveys a thirst to control her son’s career while, at the same time, obviously loving him and being proud of his achievements. Clint Eastwood has directed “J. Edgar” as a human drama full of close-ups where a person’s eyes are meant to communicate truth, even while their lips are saying something else. The film is in color, but it has been muted to have a silver look throughout much of the movie, giving the impression of an older era known by its black-and-white picture history.
“J. Edgar” is a serious movie designed to win some Oscars, rather than filling multiplexes full of entertainment-hungry masses. The audience for the film might be the kinds of people who went to see “Frost/Nixon” a few years ago—perhaps middle-aged men with a passion to learn more about what motivated historical figures like Hoover. “J. Edgar” may cause you discomfort watching a flawed man seizing power over this country’s law enforcement. It awakens a realization of how a country’s enemies can pave the way for a tyrant like Hoover to seize power over citizens in the name of protecting them, then using the power to maintain his position and feed others’ paranoia.
Violence: Heavy / Profanity: Moderate—“Jesus Christ,” “For G_d’s sakes,” f-word, “c_cks_cker (2) / Sex/Nudity: Moderate
See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.
“…Eastwood’s film takes much… care to deliver a measured character study of a very complicated man. His is a J. Edgar who doggedly pursues corruption and gives shape to modern forensics. Yet at the same time he’s a lonely, self-conscious man dominated by a possessive mother. He’s an iconic spotlight-stealer and a blackmailing villain. He’s simultaneously an unwavering patriot and a paranoiac racist. …”
—Bob Hoose, Plugged In
“……the entire production seems built on supposition rather than fact. I understand, it’s not a documentary, but why the character assassination of the formulator of the FBI? There are countless scenes in the movie are presumptuous, done in the incendiary style of Oliver Stone, that are private. No one would have had access to those moments, so they are simply made up for the film. … I don’t mean to defend J. Edgar Hoover, but every one of his achievements is undermined in this production. …There were rumors that he would don a dress and that he was homosexual, but the film is stating that as fact, when in reality, we don’t know. …”
—Phil Boatwright, Preview Family Movie and TV Review
“…the film efficiently condenses history… the tenderness of the love story in “J. Edgar” comes as a shock. … Mr. Eastwood doesn’t just shift between Hoover’s past and present, his intimate life and popular persona, he also puts them into dialectic play, showing repeatedly how each informed the other. …”
—Manohla Dargis, The New York Times
“…another left-wing attempt to spit on the grave of FBI founder and director J. Edgar Hoover. It’s a biased representation, written by a left-wing homosexual activist in Hollywood, of Hoover’s public and private life that obviously hasn’t done the true due diligence required for such a movie. It’s too bad that Clint Eastwood apparently fell for the left-wing smears against Hoover. …”
—Ted Baehr, Movieguide
“…DiCaprio may well receive a Best Actor Oscar… ambitious and absorbing… The film gives Hoover his due as a crime fighter… [3½/4]”
—Lou Lumenick, New York Post
“…a riveting, noble attempt by Eastwood… Eastwood, a moderate libertarian Republican, is sympathetic to Hoover… The resonating images of Hoover are of a man increasingly and tragically out of step with time. …”
—Jake Coyle, Associated Press
“…a dramatic essay about how the law and repression, heroism and corruption, fused in Hoover. … DiCaprio does more than disappear behind steely glasses and prosthetic old-age makeup. He transforms himself, in a feat of acting, from the inside out. … [B]”
—Owen Gleiberman, Entertainment Weekly
“…a nuanced portrait… While the FBI director is held accountable for his paranoia and megalomania, he’s also portrayed as a victim of his time and the cruelties of an overbearing mother. … [3/4]”
—Claudia Puig, USA Today
“…ultimately captivating. … Hammer is outstanding. Tolson is portrayed as obviously gay, and his affection for Hoover is touching, if a little hard to figure. … Eastwood leaves a lot to the audience to decide. Hoover remains a mystery, which is fine, but a little more guidance in navigating his life would have been helpful. … [3½/5]”
—Bill Goodykoontz, The Arizona Republic
“…Eastwood’s biopic sometimes gets lost in the scope of its story… That ‘J. Edgar’ never ultimately convinces—that at times it’s quite entertainingly bad—can be blamed on both an unfocused script and the project’s very bigness. Somewhere in this ambitious, meticulously produced epic is a small love story struggling to get out. …”
—Ty Burr, The Boston Globe
“…played with great virtuosity by Leonardo DiCaprio… Scripted by Dustin Lance Black, who won an Oscar for his ‘Milk’ screenplay, J. Edgar obviously comes from a place that is interested in the conflicted lives of closeted gay men, yet, this rumored aspect of Hoover’s life is handled with the utmost tact and restraint. … [3½/5]”
—Marjorie Baumgarten, The Austin Chronicle
“…Anyone with strong opinions about founding FBI director J. Edgar Hoover is unlikely to come away satisfied by ‘J. Edgar,’ Clint Eastwood’s ambitious, ultimately deflating portrait, which somehow manages to elide his worst abuses of power while making a burlesque of his personal vulnerabilities. … [1½/4]”
—Ann Hornaday, The Washington Post