Throughout an illustrious directing career Clint Eastwood has delivered outstanding movies such as Unforgiven, Mystic River, and Million Dollar Baby, for which he has won five Academy Awards, for best Picture, Best Director, and including the Irving Thalberg Life Achievement Award. My personal favorite of all his directed movies is Gran Torino.
The actors who have worked with him have been blessed with Oscar: Gene Hackman for Unforgiven, Tim Robbins and Sean Penn for Mystic River, Morgan Freeman and Hilary Swank for Million Dollar Baby.
When I heard Clint Eastwood was doing a movie about Hoover, I admit I was somewhat excited, although it would be a challenging movie to do.
I wondered would it deal with the relationship with the Kennedys, conspiracy theories, Hoover's alleged homosexuality, and alleged crossdressing, if it would deal with the entire career, if it would dare to show him in all his unpleasantness and darkness.
If Hoover were alive today, I think he would be horrified at this movie. Undoubtedly, no such movie could have been made while he was alive.
J Edgar deals with the entire span of J Edgar's career and makes brave choices in portraying the relationship between he and his No 2, Colson. The screenplay was written by same person who wrote the screen play for Milk.
Leonardo DiCaprio making his first movie apart from Martin Scorsese in 12 years does an outstanding job in the title role, as does Arnie Hammer in the role of Colson. Naomi Watts plays Hoover's long time secretary to whom he proposes early in the movie, and Judi Dench plays his domineering and controlling mother.
We see certain conflicts, and Hoover's use of Machivellian tactics in pursuing communists, upholding his position as head of the FBI through investigating the high ranking politicians who proved a threat. Whatever one thinks about Hoover one has to acknowledge some brilliance particuarly in organising, popularising the use of fingerprinting evidence, organising a national criminal database leveraging the Lindbergh tragedy to increase his own powers, and creating a highly respected investigative organisation.
It was interesting to see how he was able to use propaganda to boost the reputation of the FBI. At one time the gangsters seemed to hold sway in the public consciousness as heroes, until the FBI's machine gun toting G men replaced them. We also see Hoover's vanity and narcissism in full display, and his racism particularly towards Martin Luther King.
The Hoover story unfolds with Hover dictating his memoirs to a succession of agents. Why would he not use his secretary for this? It seems he wishes to tell his story to these people for vanity, and to promote himself as a legendary icon.
In reality, Hoover was a temple of secrets, and probably the least likely person you could imagine would write his own memoirs. Although, he secretly tape recorded JFK, and MLK for exmaple, his relationship with Colson could possibly have ended his career if the true nature of the relationship became public. It's well known for example that Hoover did not allow women agents, nor did he hire African Americans. Yet, we have him dictating his memoirs at one point to an African American agent.
One of the challenges with the story was the lack of a continuous protagonist, he mostly does battle with entities rather than individuals, such as communism and organised crime. By the 1960s apparently, he got soft on organised crime, while Bobby Kennedy got hard. Yet we have only two scenes in the movie with Bobby Kennedy.
Another difficulty is the excessive use of makeup on several of the actors. With DiCaprio it's fine, but with Naomi Watts, and Arnie Hammer they wear bloodshot contact lenses which was over the top and unnecessary, and distracting. Old people do not necessarily have bloodshot eyes.
I thought the performances by both DiCaprio and Hammer were deserving of Oscar recognition, though neither were nominated.
While Clint Eastwood has probably brought me more enertainment than anyone as both an actor and director, I am not as staunch a supporter of this movie as the others in recent years such as Changeling, Gran Torino, and Invictus. Nevertheless I give it 4 stars because I think it was a very challenging movie to do well.
Possible Spoilers Alert. I really enjoyed this film. I found it quite fascinating that the FBI had such a hard battle to get initiated into American government and that each new President wanted to fire Hoover and disband the FBI. Without Hoover, we wouldn't have FBI, kidnapping wouldn't be a federal crime (brought on by the Lindberg kidnapping), the agents wouldn't be armed or have any right to arrest criminals, and we wouldn't have a fingerprint database … more
I rated J. Edgar a four based on Leonardo's DiCaprio's performance. Clink Eastwood slow placing seems completely appropriate to me in this film, although I have read many reviews complaining about the pacing. At two and a half hours the movie is long, but I was kept spellbound by Leonardo's tranformation into J. Edgar Hoover. In my opinion he is a shoe in for a best actor nomination this year. I thought Judi Dench was excellent as always playing J. Edgar's … more
There is no question that J. Edgar is a remarkable man. He is the father of the Federal Bureau of Investigations and revolutionized the logistics of crime scene forensics; nevertheless, like any other man, he is not one of immaculate morality. There were accusations of corruption and disapproval over his use of espionage in his lengthy 48 years as the FBI’s director that began in 1924 and ended in 1972. Behind the scenes, he had an egotistical … more
One of my longstanding fascinations with history is the way we deify or vilify historical figures. Yes, we all know that George Washington and Thomas Jefferson preached big words about freedom while holding slaves, but those are just two examples, and neither one tells the full story: There are documents which indicate that Wash and TJ were aware of their hypocrisy, but thought slavery would fade away naturally in time. Martin Luther King was known for his dream, and for principled non-violent resistance. … more
DiCaprio seems to amaze me with his string of exceptional performances (Blood Diamond, Catch Me If You Can, The Aviator, Inception, Shutter Island) and he once again delivers as the founder of the FBI who kept a file on everyone and was the most feared man in America. Told as a sort of memoir, Hoover is nearing the end of his life and calls in an agent to write down his story. Starting with witnessing the near assasination of a Senator. He finds a leaflet supporting the US … more
Star Rating: Leonardo DiCaprio has proven himself a masterful actor, but his performance in Clint Eastwood’s J. Edgar is sure to put him on the same shelf as Sean Penn, Meryl Streep, Viggo Mortensen, Johnny Depp, and Christian Bale – actors who inhabit their roles so convincingly that the real person essentially disappears. As J. Edgar Hoover, who became the head of the FBI in 1924 and remained so until his death in 1972, DiCaprio thoroughly captures … more
By Joan Alperin-Schwartz Every once in awhile, you experience a performance by an actor that simply blows your mind...And that's exactly what happened to me, when I watched Leonardo DiCaprio portray J. Edgar Hoover in Clint Eastwood's new film, 'J. Edgar' .What makes a great performance are the subtle things an actor does...things that inform the character...a gesture, a … more
Eastwood's filmic account of Hoover the Voracious, the Fastidious, the Venal - self-aggrandizing, mother's son, political paranoiac, closet queer, social inept, vindictive bureaucrat - exudes twentieth century Americana ethos, highlighting the contentious FBI director's harried exploits and tortured, marginalized private life. Alternating betwixt Hoover's ascension and heyday in the nineteen twenties and thirties and his twilight years in the sixties through … more
This speculative biopic of the controversial FBI director stars Leonardo DiCaprio. The story opens in 1970, as Hoover is dictating his history of the Bureau; in flashbacks, we see his pivotal role the Lindburgh case and his battles with Communists, the Roosevelts, Kennedys, and Martin Luther King, Jr. He was also obsessed with his doting mother (Judi Dench) and his long-time Assistant Director, Clyde Tolson (Armie Hammer). The story is, in turns, exciting and boring, heartfelt … more