As the face of law enforcement in America for almost 50 years, J. Edgar Hoover was feared and admired, reviled and revered. But behind closed doors, he held secrets that would have destroyed his image, his career and his life.
As the face of law enforcement in America for almost 50 years, J. Edgar Hoover was feared and admired, reviled and revered. But behind closed doors, he held secrets that would have destroyed his image, his career and his life. less
“J. Edgar might seem slow in the beginning but becomes extremely enthralling once it picks up. Leonardo DiCaprio gives a powerhouse performance which in its self makes it worth your ticket. Go for it!”
I read up on Wiki about J. Edgar Hoover, the Director of the FBI for 48 years since its inception, till his death, before I went to see the movie. He is not a figure I knew much about except a general idea that he was much hated by politicians because of his cataloguing of their personal lives and dirty secrets through his spying.
The movie works at multiple levels simultaneously. At one level it shows us his career as it progresses from being a rookie at the Crime Dept. to becoming the power centre that even the President of the USA was afraid of. It also charts the rise of professionalism in the FBI under his guidance and his pioneering efforts to build forensics and scientific rigor into investigations. At a deeper level it shows us the emotional life of the man. You watch his mothers strong influence on him and his struggle to accept his homosexuality. At yet another level, it explores the mental make up of a person who is fanatical about his country and believes at all times that it is under threat by subversive forces. He gradually grows into a person deeply suspicious of everybody and no one from the President to Martin Luther King are spared his spying which he can use to outmaneuver them and gain more power for his beloved FBI. You see how the agency and him merge into one identity in his mind.
The movie takes a while to start gelling maybe because it operates at so many levels. It starts as a documentation of his career graph and then slowly builds in the emotional complexities of his relationship with his mother, his secretary and then with Tolson, his assistant, with whom he falls in love and tries to deny it to himself.
It is perhaps the love story that gives you a catch in your throat. It is tender, elegant, sad and yet oddly happy. You have to smile when you know they have their lunch and dinner together every single day and gossip and bitch over peoples clothes at the races, much like two gossiping women. It is what stays with you when the movie ends. J. Edgar is a passionate man and he is so much more driven because his passions are so few- his work and his love. The more he denies his love and his sexual inclinations, the more you see him getting intolerant of the indiscretions of others-hating them for enjoying what he denies himself and so going after them even more strongly than another man would.
Leonardo plays J. Edgar forcefully. He is ruthless, driven and yet fanciful. His Hoover is a man committed to his cause and yet vain enough to fancy himself as a daredevil G- man out to capture culprits. He looks nasty and still manages to let the softer side of a conflicted homosexual come through with nothing more that just one single tender moment between him and Tolson in the entire movie. Arnie Hammer as Tolson is also fantastic. He is gentle and open about his love and the confrontation scene between the two is overwhelming. Somehow, Judy Dench as the strong influencing mother was not powerful enough for me. The mothers character came across more strongly from Leonardos reactions to her rather than from within her.
You may find the the movie slow to pick up but it hooks you as you go deeper inside the mans mind. I guess a personality as strong as complex and as powerful as J.Edgar Hoover would have it no other way. He commands your attention, your sympathy and your respect. I recommend it.