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Movie Review: J. Edgar

By ShelGarlick
On December 5, 2012

In American history few figures have ever been as controversial as the former director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, J. Edgar Hoover. The man served as director of that organization for forty eight years, longer than any director in American history. The man is both revered and controversial, and the biopic J Edgar does not shy away from either side.
The film J. Edgar is the latest film from legendary actor and director Clint Eastwood. Eastwood's resume is an impressive one as a director with such films as Unforgiven, Million Dollar Baby, Mystic River, Bridges of Madison County, and Gran Torino. With a solid cast, great director, and a recognizable history figure as the protagonist J. Edgar had a step up from the other film in terms of a good start.
The plot of J. Edgar is somewhat straightforward although it can seem a little convoluted at times. The film's story for the most part is told by J. Edgar Hoover himself as he is working with an FBI agent in his later years to pen his biography. The only time the story deviates from this path is when Hoover discusses his legacy with his longtime agent and close friend, Clyde Tolston.
You witness Hoover's rise from being a promising agent to become the director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation at the tender age of twenty four. Although it is told through Hoover's eyes you see much of the lesser known side of Hoover's life. The film gives you a glimpse of the weakness and insecurities Hoover battled throughout his life.
You get to observe how heavily Hoover depended on his mother, and the unhealthy attachment he had to her. The movie touches upon Hoover's sexuality, including instances where he crossed dressed and also hints at his bisexuality. Despite the amount of history in J. Edgar Hoover's life the film's story is often slow paced and a tad shallow at times, but ultimately it still remains entertaining.
The cast itself is solid with powerhouse names such as Leonardo DiCaprio and Naomi Watts. DiCaprio plays the title character throughout the film, with some help from makeup and prosthetics to appear as the elderly version of J. Edgar Hoover. Dicaprio gives a powerful and gripping performance as Hoover, showcasing his ruthlessness and dedication to making the FBI nothing short of great. Leonardo DiCaprio brings all the aspects of the man Hoover was and much more to the screen in his wonderful performance. Arnie Hammer also gives a praiseworthy performance as Hoover's number two man Clyde Tolstoy.
Tolstoy, who in the film is portrayed as a closeted homosexual, is conflicted the entire film about his feelings for his boss. Hammer plays this part quite well, and you can feel the tension between him and DiCaprio in almost every scene they are in together. Naomi Watts plays the ever faithful secretary Helen Grandy who does whatever Hoover asks her too. She began as a secretary for the department but quickly developed feelings for Hoover, who used those to get her to do his bidding. Be the part large or small the acting in this film is quite good with only a few minor kinks here and there.
Clint Eastwood's films always have wonderful cinematography and J. Edgar uses dramatic lighting and camera angles to capture the dramatic and grandeur scenes in the film. From the scenes where Hoover establishes what kind of leader he wants to be in the FBI, to the court hearing scenes, and even the scene of Hoover's death are all shot wonderful and help capture the gravity that Hoover treated every day of his tenure as FBI director with.
As far as films by Clint Eastwood J. Edgar is not his best but it is far from disappointing. The acting is quite good and definitely carries the movie. The story while it does seem epic unfortunately falls short of the fascinating history of J. Edgar Hoover. Despite the script being occasionally weak at times we get an entertaining character study of one of America's most infamous and powerful men. You see how far Hoover was willing to go to ensure the organization he basically created and groomed into of America's elite institutions was safe even after he was gone. Hoover's legacy although controversial, his name is synonymous with the organization and his forty eight year tenure is almost legendary in American history. J. Edgar earns a solid three and a half stars out of five.

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