J Edgar

A review - by Shlomoh Sherman

Director: Clint Eastwood
Writer: Dustin Lance Black
Stars: Leonardo DiCaprio, Armie Hammer, Naomi Watts
Plot Keywords: Longtime Companion - Anti Communism - Horse - Personal Secretary - Year 1935
Taglines: The Most Powerful Man in the World
Genres: Biography - Drama
Motion Picture Rating: (MPAA) - Rated R for brief strong language
Release Date: November 11, 2011 (USA)
Filming Locations: Los Angeles, California, USA
Company Credits: Production Co: Imagine Entertainment, Malpaso Productions, Wintergreen Productions
Runtime: USA: 137 min
Trivia: Joaquin Phoenix was rumored to play Clyde Tolson, but the rumors were denied.
Goofs: Anachronisms - After Emma Goldman's 1919 trial, reporters start shooting photos using flash bulbs.
They were not in general-use for photography until 1925.
Plot: 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.

I went to see this movie because I am a fan of Leonardo DiCaprio and because the persona of J. Edgar Hoover has always intrigued me. However before even going into the theater I was doubtfull about Clint Eastwood's choice of DiCaprio to play the Bureau's chief.

Leonardo is a terrific actor but I imagined him too young for the part. There is really so much makeup can achieve and while watching the movie, there were moments when I forgot that I was watching DiCaprio and these moments alternated with those in which I was very aware that I was wating a performance of a young actor in makeup. The film chronicles Hoover's rise from an agent working for the Justice Dept to head of the mosgt influencial law enforcement agencies in our nation's history. It is interesting to note that it was Hoover who thought of and insisted for many of the modern scientific and forensic methods used in modern law enforcement. Incredibly no one before him thought of looking for fingerprints and the science of fingerprints came into existence only in the 1930s. Had Hoover been alive today, it probably would have been he to incorporate DNA testing into the Bureau's array of crime busting methods.

Hoover was seen as an American hero, in fact, as a comic book hero. All the radio and TV shows about the FBI in the 1940s and 1950s called upon Hoover as their chief consultant.

Although Hoover himself was not present at the arrest or killing of criminals such as baby Face Nelson or John Dillinger, he took credit for their actual arrests.

It was he who persuaded the government to pursue both Communists and gangsters, and it was he who laid the groundwork for the nefarious doings of Joe McCarthy.

Many have seen Hoover as a hero but personally, although he deserves credit for successfully bringing dangerous people to justice, I see him as a little dictator. Much like many a Nazi and Soviet official, he had his desk raised off the floor causing people who came to see him to literally look up to him.

Hoover held more power in this country than any official should have and the only politician having the guts to buck him was Richard Nixon. Hoover was able to cow all other presidents, vice presidents, and attorneys general before Nixon with the threat of secret files containing many closets filled with skeletons.

Speaking of which, the film has to deal with Hoover's alleged homosexuality because most people are aware that Hoover was in some kind of intimate relationship with Clyde Tolson, the Bureau's assistant director. Hoover never married and he let everyone know that he was uncomfortable in the company of women, something for which his otherwise adoring mother found him weak. However most historians as well as people who knew Hoover personally are not cetain that Hoover was what we call "gay". Instead he is looked at as a non gay man who has gay sex with other men. Watching the film caused me to see him as bisexual rather than homosexual.

Clint Eastwood and DiCaprio discuss Hoover's sexual orientation at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6tPMNYaf-JY among other sites.

Armie Hammer who played the Winklevoss twins in THE SOCIAL NETWORK, does an admirable job as Tolson, Hoover's right hand man.

Naomi Watts as Helen Gandy, Hoover's secretary and lifelong friend, and Judi Dench as Hoover's mother are wonderful to watch.

A barely recognizable Lea Thompson gives a nice cameo appearence as Ginger Roger's mother.

Emily Alyn Lind as Shirley Temple is delightful and Christopher Shyer as Richard Nixon is eerily realistic.

Clint Eastwood directed the film and also wrote its musical score. Does this man's talents ever end?

If you have not as yet seen J EDGAR, I urge you to do so since no review can capture its magnificence.

Euclid, OH
December 1, 2011

Cast overview, first billed only:

Leonardo DiCaprio ... J. Edgar Hoover
Armie Hammer ... Clyde Tolson
Josh Hamilton ... Robert Irwin
Geoff Pierson ... Mitchell Palmer
Cheryl Lawson ... Roberta Dixon Palmer
Kaitlyn Dever ... Palmer's Daughter
Brady Matthews ... Inspector
Gunner Wright ... Dwight Eisenhower
David A. Cooper ... Franklin Roosevelt
Ed Westwick       ... Agent Smith
Naomi Watts       ... Helen Gandy
Kelly Lester ... Head Secretary
Jack Donner       ... Dickerson N. Hoover Sr.
Judi Dench       ... Anna Marie Hoover
Dylan Burns       ... Hoover as a Child
Jordan Bridges ... Labor Dept. Lawyer

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