Thursday, November 3, 2011
The image of J. Edgar Hoover has been portrayed in film, TV and on stage many times, and in vastly different ways. This is partially due to his lengthy career that ran from the 1920s and into the 1970s leading up to his death. The early years of J. Edgar Hoover have been portrayed by Kevin Dunn in "Chaplin" (1992) and by Billy Crudup in "Public Enemies" (2009) where he would build files against radicals and criminals. Bob Hoskins portrayed the later years of J. Edgar Hoover in "Nixon" (1995) and his political involvement. In each of the films, J. Edgar Hoover was feared and admired, reviled and revered. However, they do not provide enough clarity to his personal life, a life where his secrets would have destroyed his image, his career and his life. A problem with the previous depictions of J. Edgar Hoover is highlighted in this film. Historians write from the present perspective, forgetting context. This film attempts to deliver us beyond the present perspective and provides the context to the events that took place.
Clint Eastwood's latest biopic "J. Edgar" starring Leonardo DiCaprio balances Hoover's personal life with his accomplishments overseeing the FBI. The film uses flashback storytelling to highlight the significant events during his nearly 50 years with the FBI. The film starts in the 1970s as J. Edgar Hoover (Leonardo DiCaprio) is dictating to an assistant his autobiography. The make-up used to age our principal characters is immediately brought to the forefront, but as the movie progresses the visual becomes more believable. From an early childhood we see the powerfully influential relationship that J. Edgar Hoover had with his mother (Judi Dench). His career started to develop in the 1920s during a time of the Great Depression. He realized that information is power and that in order to succeed in the fight against crime that one needed to have at a minimum the same level of expertise to forensically detecting the crime as those committing the crime.
Influential to J. Edgar Hoover was his relationship with Clyde Tolson (Armie Hammer) and his personal secretary Helen Gandy (Naomi Watts). These three play the most pivitol role in the film and their make-up is difficult at times as they age from being in their 30s to 70s, but grows with the film. The performances from each are very well done and deserving of a nomination. The very personal relationship with Clyde Tolson is of the most interest as the illusion to their sexuality is very obvious and the offering of the Associate Director position seemed more like wedding vows than a promotion.
The rest of the cast includes Josh Lucas (Charles Lindbergh) and Jeffrey Donovan (Robert F. Kennedy). I won't even bother identifying the role of Nixon in the film as the performance was laughable. By comparison, Jeffery Donovan actually did quite well with Bobby Kennedy.
The buzz surrounding this film has been growing, and I would like to fan the flames by saying that Clint Eastwood has done a spectacular job with this film and is deserving of a Best Director nomination. Leonardo DiCaprio will likely receive a nomination for his performance, but I don't think he will win. Best Supporting Actor and Best Supporting Actress nominations will likely be given to Armie Hammer and Judi Dench. All are very deserving and contribute to a 5 Quack rating for the film.