J. Edgar Reviews
Clint Eastwood in the directory chair, Dicaprio taking lead as Hoover delivering a solid biopic with controversial subjects.
Hoover had his nose in everything, wanted to know everything, wanted to manipulate and control everyone, wanted to bring everybody ELSE to justice, while he himself created his own rules, flaunted rules, abused his power for personal and financial gain, used information to his own benefit, and vengefully targeted people who didn't give him what he wanted. I already knew Hoover was responsible for trying to ruin the lives of a great many people, primarily anyone with any kind of communist or even just socialist beliefs, leanings, interests, friends, or family.
This drama is definitely not a movie you would watch for mindless entertainment. Be ready to sit patiently, let it develop at its own pace, and just soak up the knowledge of what this man has done to change our country. He was a mover and a shaker of the 20th century. A man who blackmailed American Presidents. He is only depicted blackmailing a couple of them, Roosevelt and Kennedy, which leads me to assume that he may have also tried to blackmail the other Presidents. He even blackmailed Martin Luther King Jr. in a nasty way, trying to convince him to reject his Nobel Peace Prize. King ignored the blackmail and accepted his prize. While this movie does not attempt to blame Hoover for King's assassination, I have read that the FBI had been requested to protect King at the speech where he was assassinated, and Hoover refused to allow them to do this. Who knows?
I had a preconceived opinion that J Edgar Hoover was ultimately responsible for John F Kennedy's assassination, but the movie did not hint at any such thing. The movie did, however, show that Hoover had motive. Hoover's attempts to blackmail and manipulate President Kennedy with secret wiretaps of President Kennedy's affairs are motive enough, for they would have created a conflict with Kennedy. If Hoover found out (and he probably would have) that Kennedy was planning retaliation or removing him from power, what would he have done? How far would Hoover go? And who really was behind the Vietnam War?
And why are we to believe people in similar positions of power aren't doing the same kinds of things right now that Hoover did? The FBI, CIA, and NSA have ever more intrusive and far reaching technologies to document every little thing in everybody's lives. There is definitely history of abuse of that power.
Many things stand out about J Edgar. He was an extraordinary man. He is portrayed in a very human and revealing manner by Eastwood, and well acted by Leonardo DiCaprio. I don't think Eastwood hates his subject. This biographical movie appears to be an honest look at the good, the bad, and the ugly aspects of J Edgar Hoover, his achievements, his personal life, what made him who he was. I appreciate the attempt at a balanced and respectful biography.
A very driven man, Hoover accomplished a lot. He is responsible for making the FBI what it is, for the capture of the big name criminals of his day. He may not have made the arrests, but they happened on his order, by his methods, and because of his vision of what the FBI should be and his drive to make it into what it is.
Looking more at his personal life, one apparent personal tragedy for Hoover was that he was not able to fully consummate and live out his love relationship with Clive Tolson, played by Armie Hammer. Or maybe they did. Not sure. Hoover's mother's wishes and views heavily influenced his willingness to actualize his feelings for Tolson in a physical and sexual way, apparently, perhaps moreso while she was alive. To me, the relationship with Tolson was one of the more human aspects of Hoover's life, and Tolson seemed to try to be a voice of reason and moderation, as one of Hoover's 3 most trusted advisors. Those 3 advisers being Tolson, Hoover's mother Annie, and his secretary Helen Gandy, who destroyed his personal files upon Hoover's death, before President Nixon or anyone else could get their hands on them! Whew, good thing Gandy accomplished that, right? I wonder what President Nixon would have done with all that information!?
If there's one other person in history who reminds me of Hoover, it's Alexander the Great. Both dominated by strong mothers, both with strong homosexual leanings. Both highly driven their entire lives. Both commanding an army of whom they demanded complete and utter loyalty, obedience, and sacrifice, with Hoover's army being, of course, his FBI agents.
J Edgar is a must see for anyone studying 20th Century American history or 20th Century American government. You will learn a lot and come away with things to think about. The discussions coming from this movie could go in so many directions; it's excellent viewing for a discussion group.
I think the issue here is that Edgar was a very interesting man and there is so much to look into and to show on a live screen that it would never work properly. I have always admired Eastwood's directing skills and i thought he did a decent job here too.
On a technical level , the film is really well shot and the sets are lavishly reconstituted.
This may not appeal to everyone, but personally i was glad to watch it.