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

Prairie Miller stopped by to talk to UK British primatologist, ethologist, anthropologist, and Disneynature Ambassador, Jane Goodall about Bears as well her longstanding concern and caring for endangered animals in their natural habitats
Kam Williams presents his top 10 DVD List for April 15, 2014, including Double Indemnity, Touch of Evil, Jan Svankmajer's Alice and Midsomer Murders: Village Case Files
Movie reviewer Kam Williams reviews the Documentary Film 'The Address'. Williams gives the documentary 4 stars and says it is a current-day, Ken Burns PBS production every bit as moving as any of his nostalgic classics.
Movie reviewer Kam Williams interviews actor Marlon Wayans about his new movie, A Haunted House 2 and shares it with NewsBlaze readers around the world.
Movie reviewer Kam Williams gives the film, Small Time 3 stars. He said it is very good and realistic, a slice-of-life drama highlighting the plight of a teen with a hole in his soul who's understandably torn between moving on with his life.
Kam Williams reviews The Railway Man, an introspective story of Eric Lomax, one of 60,000+ POWs forced to build the Burma Railway, known as the Death Railway, because so many died.

 

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