J. Edgar Hoover was the man who created the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). He was the head of the FBI for 47 years and was considered one of the most powerful men. His power did not only come in bullets and manpower, but secrets. He kept files on many of the political powers including Martin Luther King, John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon.
What is most ironic about Hoover was that his own personal life was far from acceptable for the time. He was a bit strange. Many know of the rumors that he dressed in his mothers clothes and even lived and slept with his assistant for 40 years.
The film is very much a Clint Eastwood film; the precise attention to detail, the dark and shadowy lighting (almost having a Mise-en-scene feel to it) and the gloomy soundtrack which fit perfectly.
Eastwood uses some interesting directing technique in “J. Edgar.” He uses flashbacks and aging make-up. This is not unique in any way, films such as “Amadeus” and “The Notebook” have used it also. But Eastwood makes it believable where other films may fail.
The film is a dive into the life of J. Edgar Hoover (played by Leonardo DiCaprio); however it is presented differently. It opens with some background story on J. Edgar, then it switches to Hoover as an older man narrating his life story to a journalist.
We are bounced back and forth into the young J. Edgar and the older one. As a young man he was dedicated and ambitious, but later in life he had much to lose. When Hoover’s died in 1972, President Nixon was more concerned about those secret files mentioned above (makes sense for a crook like Nixon).
This isn’t the first time we see DiCaprio in a quirky, unusual character; his performance as Howard Hughes in the 2004 Scorsese picture, “Aviator” shared some similar unusual characteristics (wiping his hands after handshakes, neatness and similar over protective mothers…etc).
When I watched this film, I sensed that Eastwood was not the biggest fan of Hoover Although Hoover’s his contributions to this country and its law-enforcement are unmatched, he was a walking contradiction. Throughout the film, there are very strong homosexual innuendos.
It was a rumor that Hoover was gay with his assistant director, Clyde Tolson (Armie Hammer), but what is ironic is that Hoover was very much against homosexuality. He go after anyone who accused him and he never hired homosexuals. It was even rare for him to hire women (tells us something, eh).
The relationship between Hoover and Tolson is a very interesting one. Tolson was the only man who would make Hoover stutter and sweat. The two men never missed a lunch together. They had never been married nor had any interest in women. The rumors of Hoovers sexuality, as mentioned above, most likely shocked some because of his obsession with the private life of influential people. He was so invested in others’ sexual lives that he seems to go further into denial.
For a man with no interest in women, two of the most influential people in Hoover’s life were his mother (played by Judy Dench) and his attractive secretary, Helen (played by Naomi Watts). Hoover lived with his mother for 43 years. While working, he had the necessary bitter and emotionless demeanor that was required for his ultra-conservative agency, yet when in the presence of his mother, he was reduced to a complete child in a fantasy world.
During the film, Hoover attempts to court his secretary Helen. It is made very apparent that he has no interest in women when he admits,“It was time for a Mrs. Hoover.” Instead of the marriage out of love, he feels the need to protect his heterosexual reputation.
Overall, the film was excellent. I enjoy Clint Eastwood’s style, he has this fascination with detail that I can respect. It a must-see.