NewsBlaze search box Daily News header

J. Edgar Film Review

By     get stories by email

Biopic Uncovers Skeletons in Closet of Legendary FBI Director

J. Edgar Hoover (Leonardo DiCaprio) served as director of the FBI from its founding in 1935 until his death in 1972. Over the course of that tenure, the legendary G-Man singlehandedly built the agency into an intimidating espionage and crime-fighting operation feared by gangsters and law-abiding citizens alike.

For, as his powers and spheres of influence expanded, he began directing his agents to spy not only on crooks and racketeers but on anyone he considered un-American, such as members of civil rights and anti-war organizations. And armed with the fruit of a variety of arguably unconstitutional surveillance techniques, he proceeded to stockpile a mammoth database of personal dirt to employ for purposes of blackmail, embarrassment and the leveling of veiled threats.

warnerbros.com
Photo Credit: warnerbros.com

But while he had no problem exposing skeletons in other people's closets, Hoover apparently went to great lengths to hide his own clandestine relationship with his constant companion of over 40 years, his Deputy Director, Clyde Tolson (Armie Hammer). Successfully suppressing the occasional rumors that they might be lovers, the couple was only outed posthumously by New York City socialite Susan Rosenstiel.

Directed by Clint Eastwood, J. Edgar is a deliberately-paced biopic which gradually finds support for the basic contention that Hoover was, indeed, a sexually-repressed drag queen. The picture blames his latent tendencies on an overbearing mother (Dame Judi Dench) who'd cruelly discouraged him as a youngster from exploring his curiosity about cross-dressing by issuing dire warnings like, "I'd rather have a dead son than a daffodil for a son."

This overambitious flashback flick unfolds against the backdrop of some of the FBI's most-celebrated cases, from the kidnapping of the Lindbergh baby to the bloody showdown with mobster John Dillinger to the monitoring of the movements of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. However, of far more consequence here than any of these touchstones in Hoover's career is the shadowy specter of him and his life mate secretly sharing stolen moments, whether holding hands in the back of a limo, whispering sweet nothings in each other's ears, or enjoying makeup sex after a heated argument.

Appropriately narrated in an almost confessional tone by the title character, J. Edgar stands in sharp contrast to the dozens of previous screen portrayals of Hoover which had studiously avoided the sexual preference question. Credit iconoclastic Clint Eastwood for belatedly bringing a more balanced treatment to the screen, even if the shocking truth about such a tortured soul is apt to make audiences squirm in their seats.

Between the cross-dressing and pleas of "Please don't leave me, Clyde!" brace yourself to see the vulnerable underbelly, literally and figuratively, of an anguished icon knocked off his pedestal.

Very Good (3 stars)

Rated R for brief profanity.

Running time: 137 minutes

Distributor: Warner Brothers

Kam Williams is a syndicated film and book critic who writes for 100+ publications. He is a member of the New York Film Critics Online, the African-American Film Critics Association, and the NAACP Image Awards Nominating Committee. Contact him through NewsBlaze.

  Please click this get stories by email button to be notified about future stories, and please leave a comment below.

  Please leave a comment here     If it does not display within 10 seconds, please refresh the page

Related Movie Reviews News

Rose sat down to talk about the Ross Katz directed bittersweet dramady, while finishing off an alfalfa burger and diving into an accompanying plate of fries.
And 'how the art world stopped thinking about inequality and learned to love the bling.'
Kevin James talks to Kam Williams about his role in the Paul Blart: Mall Cop sequel
Freida Pinto, born in Mumbai, India, showed an interest in acting early on, participating in community theater and school productions.
Romance, war, adventure, vengeance are some of the common themes for the new DVD releases of the week. The King of Masks and Like Sunday, Like Rain are two.
A schoolgirl humiliated by a classmate takes a humiliating revenge in return, then comes up with the idea of forming The Sisterhood, secret society for girls.

 

NewsBlaze Writers Of The Month


Popular Stories This Month

newsletter logo

NewsBlaze
Copyright © 2004-2014 NewsBlaze Pty. Ltd.
Use of this website is subject to our Terms of Service and Privacy Policy  | DMCA Notice               Press Room   |    Visit NewsBlaze Mobile Site