Biopic of J. Edgar Hoover (Leonardo DiCaprio) told by Hoover as he recalls his career for a biography. Early in his career, Hoover fixated on Communists, anarchists, and any other revolutionary taking action against the U.S. government. He slowly builds the agency's reputation, becoming the sole arbiter of who gets hired and fired. One of his hires is Clyde Tolson (Armie Hammer), who is quickly promoted to Assistant Director and was Hoover's confidant and companion for the rest of Hoover's life. Hoover's memories have him playing a greater role in the many high profile cases in which the F.B.I. was involved, the Lindbergh baby kidnapping, the arrest of bank robbers like John Dillinger, and also show him to be quite adept at manipulating the various politicians with whom he worked over his career, thanks in large part to his secret files.Written by
When Hoover calls RFK to tell him JFK has been shot, RFK is taking the call in his office. In reality RFK was at his home in Hickory Hill having a lunchtime meeting and took the call by his pool. See more »
J. Edgar Hoover:
Let me tell you something. The SCLC has direct Communist ties. Even great men can be corrupted, can't they? Communism is not a political party. It is a disease. It corrupts the soul, turning men, even the gentlest of men, into vicious evil tyrants.
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Such great starting material and DiCaprio, too...but it's dry choppy and dull!
J. Edgar (2011)
This is a particular kind of movie--the based on fact biopic--done with great attention to period accuracy. If that's what's important, getting a bit of American history into a vivid big screen format, then this works pretty well. On top of that, Leonardo DiCaprio is excellent, very professional.
But "J. Edgar" not a terrific movie. If a movie is meant to be gripping and moving and beautiful and fun and all those things, this is none of those. It isn't boring or tepid or clumsy or insulting--but not being those things isn't exactly a compliment.
And the reasons for this are clear. Mainly there's the format. Between Dustin Black and Clint Eastwood a decision was made to "tell" the story by means of the character, FBI director J. Edgar Hoover, literally telling the story to a typist. This is a dry and painful way of any kind of drama. It's even a boring way to teach a class, and sometimes you get the feeling we're being "taught" things about our history we need to know.
Be careful, if you watch only half the movie, you'll be filled with misconceptions that the movie itself corrects, in the last few moments during a final important conversation. That problem of course is a new kind of "unreliable narrator," since the story is being told by the protagonist himself. And no one is very honest, truly, in an autobiography. In a way that makes the movie the most interesting it can be. I'm also not sure what the director and writer really feel about Hoover's sexual orientation, at least as it applied to his doing his job.
There are some familiar Eastwood slants on content that might irk a few of you familiar with his politics. For example, he makes very public his appreciation for civil rights and equality, but in a way that's so showy you begin to suspect the motivation (that he believes what he preaches but he also wants you to like him for it). But then he also has little to say about the heavy handed FBI (and pre-FBI) days when lots of innocent people got followed and railroaded and jailed and worse. The mood is set that in those old days things were different and we really needed a megalomaniac at the FBI to keep this darned country safe from the Commies. Something like that.
As a drama, which is maybe the secondary consideration, the plot moves between a present day 1960s crisis (between the Kennedy and Nixon years) and the early days. It flips back and forth a lot (too much for me) and keeps DiCaprio's narration flowing right through a lot of it in part to hold it together. The result is fragmented as a story, and stilted as a dramatic flow.
Just a heads up on the format and the flow. Again, if it's content you want, and you can enjoy the way it gets cobbled together, there's a lot of stuff here to sort out.
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