starring Leonardo DiCaprio , Armie Hammer, Naomi Watts, Josh Lucas and and Judi Dench
written by Dustin Lance Black
directed by Clint Eastwood
I wasn’t crazy about the way J. Edgar told the story of founding FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover, but I thought it was a great tale and that Dicaprio delivered a great performance. As I have written before, when he was much younger I actively disliked DiCaprio. But with age I have come to like much (not all) of his work more and more. J. Edgar Hoover, head of the American Federal Bureau of Investigation for four decades, is a larger-than-life character, so any movie treatment of him is necessarily a caricature. He was a caricature of himself even while he was alive. Unproven rumors of closeted homosexuality are played upon by Eastwood here in Hoover’s relationship with a close aide. In fact, that’s most of the story, told in hindsight by an aging Director looking back over his career. The FBI cut its teeth fighting Depression-era bank robbers like Machine Gun Kelly, Pretty Boy Floyd, the Ma Barker Gang, Bonnie and Clyde, and the most infamous of all, John Dillenger. But instead of focusing on that Eastwood focused on Hoover’s intense personal relationship with his mother and Deputy Director Clyde Tolson (Armie Hammer), as well as his fetish for assembling voluminous secret files on - well, on practically everybody. Hoover is portrayed as paranoid and maliciously vengeful in a passive way, which I don’t doubt is arguably accurate. In any event, despite his zealous anti-communist and sloganeering patriotism - or, maybe because of them - a person like J. Edgar Hoover strikes me as exactly the sort of man unfit for public service. It is exactly the kind of public servant that right-wing Republicans in the U.S.admire, especially in an election year.
The movie was a great film. The story it tells is a great story about a fantastic asshole.