Friday, November 11, 2011

J. Edgar: Movie Review


Presenting a hero but not defining hero versus villain.

“J. Edgar” is worth the hype, the fuss and the wait. I was particularly intrigued by the prospect that it was directed by the older, masculine Clint Eastwood and written by the younger, out-and-proud Dustin Lance Black. I got the biographical story of the FBI leader and I also got the deeply-touching love story of a closeted gay man. Both were woven together seamlessly.2011

Directed by: Clint Eastwood

Screenplay by: Dustin Lance Black

Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio and Armie Hammer

We jumped around in time, and also a bit in reality, to not just tell us who he was and what he accomplished, but to show us why he was that man. Near the beginning of the film, J. Edgar Hoover (Leonardo DiCaprio) makes the comment that it’s time to re-clarify the difference between hero and villain. That’s definitely what he wanted, but I’d wager that the opposite is closer to what he got.

American kids growing up towards the end of Hoover’s life seemed to think that they were to regard him as a bad man. Mostly because he did things that most people believe are wrong. But if those wrong actions come from a pure, child-like need of understanding good and evil and wanting good to be celebrated and evil to be punished, is that really so bad?

He deeply detested politicians, anarchists and communists. I think he also believed that they were frequently one in the same. But he formed the FBI to protect America from any and all crimes. He cared about appearance, decorum, and respect. Mustaches are bad, well-cut suits are good, and he hired and fired on both accounts.

The intimate details of Hoover’s life (which we probably can’t know for sure) came to life in the film when Clyde Tolson (Armie Hammer) walked into his office and was immediately hired. Presumably because he’s handsome and knows how to wear a suit. Tolson was shown to be more in touch with his sexuality. With Tolson by his side, the drama was heightened to show all the warring elements within Hoover — how he was raised contradicted with who he actually was and what he believed to be right contradicted with what was actually happening.

Leonardo DiCaprio was an impeccable choice to play J. Edgar Hoover from a young man to his dying day at age 77. DiCaprio himself is nearing 40 but still looks the same as when he was a 16 year-old homeless kid on “Growing Pains,” and now might be his time for the Oscar. The transformation through all of Hoover’s weight gain, hair loss, and infallible belief system was perfect. He showed us the man as he should probably be remembered, and almost as he would like to be remembered.
Best of 2011