First Hit: I left the theater thinking that this film only scratched the surface of this man and will not be memorable over time.
Growing up in the 50’s and 60’s J. Edgar Hoover’s name was synonymous to patriotic righteous law enforcement. As many found out, it was a somewhat twisted view of what America was, is and should be.
This film shows him as gay, a liar, pushy, and a self-righteous believer that he and he alone knew the truth. He was the appointed king of his domain, the F.B.I. How and why he got this way is what I was hoping this film would explore. This is what I believed director Clint Eastwood was attempting to show. However, either he did his best with the limited material he had or he had an unwillingness to make an educated guess at what he thought and believed.
There may be a dearth of records about J. Edgar because he was a secretive and spiteful man, but he believed he was truly right. He didn’t want people to know him, he wanted to know people and how they could either hurt or help him or the country. It is known he kept many damaging files on people he might want to have leverage on or over (the Kennedy’s) and this film makes note of this throughout. J. Edgar (played by Leonardo DiCaprio) plays Hoover both young and old.
The effective use of makeup allowed for a continuity of young and old Hoover as the film flashes back and forth between these time periods. Clyde Tolson (played by Armie Hammer) is Hoover’s lover, and this film seemed like it focused on this more than any other one thing.
There is also a lot of film time to the solving of the Lindbergh child kidnaping. This was one of Hoover’s claims to fame because it got the attention of the public and congress and prompted the kind of funding and power for the FBI he wanted.
DiCaprio did a nice job with what he had. To me it was either the material or director that let him down. Hammer was solid as his faithful friend and lover. Unfortunately his makeup as an old man made him look like a mummy and not realistic. Judi Dench played Hoover’s mother as steely, cold and manipulative. Dustin Lance Black wrote this script which had little intrigue. Eastwood had wonderful sets, scenes and pictures but the idea and substantive hope that the public would learn something about Hoover was lost.
Overall: This film was a nice film, with nice shots but non-committed to making an opinion about one of the most reviled and revered people in government law enforcement.