During the 20th century, few men were as controversial as J. Edgar Hoover and no man was as powerful. At the height of his power and popularity Hoover was controversial for reasons other than what Clint Eastwood and Leonardo DiCaprio show in their latest venture, the bio pic, J. Edgar about the former director of the FBI. The movie itself will not be without controversy as the FBI published a statement before it was even theatrically released, speaking out against the movies allegations.
The movie spans the over 50 year career of Hoover as his rise to the head of the FBI and his entire span as director right down to his death. Having been an ambitious justice department employee he was a fast riser and quickly promoted to director at age 27. His fight against what he felt was the invasion of the communists to fighting against the heroes of the crime era during the great depression as he took credit for the capture of John Dillinger, Machine Gun Kelly, Pretty Boy Floyd and several others.
The flaw in Eastwood’s film is not performance based but it lies with Academy Award winner Dustin Lance Black’s script. Having been brought to fame with his openly gay lifestyle and script of Harvey Milk who was a hero in the gay community. Black once again tackled a controversial figure in american history, the trouble is that, while with Milk there was no question about the man and his legacy.
With J. Edgar there is little known fact surrounding his personal life, although rumors have always surrounded him and his sexuality and lifestyle but no fact is actually known. What actually is known is just as interesting, with his legendary battles with Robert Kennedy and how he played loose and fast with his own set of rules that lead America to find heroes in the criminal before they looked up to the federal agents.
Black’s script suggest that he had a longtime affair with his close personal friend and assistant Clyde Tolson. This may or may not be true but as movie fan the action and interest in Hoover lies with his career and how it truly changed law enforcement forever. True or not Hoover will always be associated with cross dressing and jokes of the like. It seemed to slow the script down and ultimately seemed irrelevant to the picture.
DiCaprio once again poured everything he had into this role and it shows. While it may not be his best performance he non the less is the star and focal point, being in ever scene of the movie. Without his delivery of great dialogue the film doesn’t work at all. While the 2 hour plus running time seems to run by quickly it has empty spots that make the movie not all it could be. A fine supporting cast round out the movie but they didn’t quite feel as well used as they could be. Josh Lucas as Charles Lindbergh is a fine casting but with little dialogue or use of Lindbergh, despite the incredibly pivotal time in Hoover’s career he was involved with, it was a minor almost unnecessary role.
It is overall a somewhat decent movie but lacking in enough areas to make you question it’s worth. You will have to be extremely interested in the myth of Hoover rather than the fact of Hoover to truly love the movie but it’s not gonna be a complete waste of time.