J. Edgar Hoover was a racist, a blackmailer and a deceiver; a puppet master who shaped many of the major events in modern American history. He used his files on many significant people to bring a tight squeeze on those in political and public life. These included those such as President Franklin D Roosevelt and President Dwight Eisenhower. Another major figure was President Nixon. He had secrets on the Watergate scandal that he took to the grave. But there was also the DA Bobby Kennedy & Eleanor Roosevelt. Yet Hoover was a man with his own dark secrets too.
The Mafia got word that he was a closet homosexual and was allegedly a cross-dresser. Against the background of all this, he allowed the spread of organized crime, by pretending it did not exist. He held back evidence of the assassination of JFK and he took to the grave some of Nixon’s darkest secrets.
This is a biopic of J. Edgar Hoover told by Hoover as he remembers his career like a biography being written in the moment. Early in his career his obsessions were communists and anarchists. He slowly builds the FBI’s image becoming the Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. He employs a man named Clyde Tolson who is quickly promoted to Assistant Director and would be his right-man, partner and best friend for the rest of his life.Public figures do not come more powerful or dangerous than Hoover. The intelligence tycoon who watched and took notes on America’s elite consistently without a care in the world. Privacy wasn’t a word in his vocabulary. If he didn’t like somebody he had bugs installed in their house, in their car. He put them everywhere that he knew were used frequently.
In this movie, Hoover’s sexuality is imperative. The film shows that throughout his life he had strong emotional feelings for his work colleague Clyde Tolson (Armie Harmer). I recall a scene where he tries to explain to his mother that he has no desire for women. His mother (Judi Dench) replies by telling Edgar about a boy named Daffodil, who killed himself after being ousted as a homosexual.
“I’d rather have a dead son than a daffodil”
I think they cast DiCaprio well for the role. He’s not a stranger to the biopic having previously portrayed Howard Hugh in The Aviator (2004) and Frank Abagnale Jr in Catch Me If You Can (2002) but most recently he depicted Wall Street mongrel, Jordan Belfort in Martin Scorsese’s The Wolf Of Wall Street. and The Wolf Of Wall Street (2014).
Clint Eastwood packs the key events of Hoover’s 48 years career into one hundred and thirty minutes of film. J. Edgar’s emphasis is how this paranoid, admirable, fearful man was shaped by his mother and helped by his two confidants, his secretary Helen Gandy (Naomi Watts) and Clyde Tolson.DiCaprio’s performance surprised me. Armie Harmer had his moments of excellence but other parts of the film he lacked conviction. Naomi Watt’s role was minor and she was rather meek. She wasn’t one of the main characters so my expectations were less. As good as all the actors were in this movie, only two made an impact. I’d expect a movie that spans through seven decades to more convincing. It’s an average attempt to portray one of the most significant political and powerful men of the 20th Century.
In conclusion I believe that he DiCaprio played the role well but it could have been better. There were scenes were his acting was very good but then there were others where it was depressing and grim. Furthermore, I found the movie to be quite short for the topic area. Films about political figures tend to be nearly three hours. I’d like it if they redid this movie with the same cast but with directed and written by Martin Scorsese. The Scorsese/DiCaprio success record is 100%.
Verdict: An average adaptation about one of history’s most interesting figures. 7/10