Thursday, February 16, 2012

J.Edgar (2011)

Directed by: Clint Eastwood
Starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Armie Hammer, Naomi Watts.

As director of the FBI for forty eight years, J. Edgar Hoover was the most feared man in the United States Government.  Living by the motto of "information is power," he had the goods on everyone: who was sleeping with who, or who was harboring a dark secret. He kept confidential files on anyone in a position of power- even the eight presidents whom which he served under. He was an extreme moralist who surrounded him self with people who lived by his code of ethics, or they were fired. He lived with his mother until her death, and never married.  What few people knew was that Hoover himself was the one who was harboring a dark secret his entire life; Clint Eastwood's latest biopic, J. Edgar focuses on that very issue.

The narrative is told through Hoover (DiCaprio) in his later years, and a series flashback scenes of his life and career in public office. The screenplay by Dustin Lance Black focuses the story on personal relationships in Hoover's life, mainly the repressed gay relationship that Hoover had with his assistant director, Clyde Tolson (Armie Hammer.) However, unlike Black's screenplay, Milk (2008) this film does not portray scenes of gay sex. In the one scene where you think it's going to happen, it doesn't.  The film instead portrays the two men repressing their homosexual feelings (not unheard of in the mid 20th Century) and settling for a lifelong companionship. There were two other close relationships in Hoover's life; his mother, Anna Marie (Judi Dench), and his personal secretary, Helen Gandy (Watts.) The film shows how his overbearing mother most likely shaped Hoover into the man he was, and how he never had an intimate relationship with another woman. The one woman whom Hoover attempted to show interest in turned out instead to be one of his closest confidants, Helen Gandy. Helen ended up being the one person whom he entrusted all of his confidential information and evidence with.  The rest of the narrative portrays Hoover as a man obsessed with glory, and who twisted the truth in his actual work in apprehending criminals, but got results nonetheless. The most famous incident that gets the most screen time is the "Lindbergh Baby" case in 1932 which changed the way the FBI operated from that point on.

Through make-up and sheer acting ability, Leonardo DiCaprio is stellar in his portrayal of the head "G-Man."  Without a lot of pomp and circumstance, Clint Eastwood does an excellent job of showing who J. Edgar Hoover really was: a repressed gay man who was also a powerful man. There is no question after watching this film that Hoover was a man who got things done- even if he did not do them himself, and regardless of his sexuality.

No comments:

Post a Comment