J. Edgar

MPAA Rating: R

Entertainment: +2

Content: -2

Leonardo DiCaprio, Naomi Watts, Judi Dench, Armie Hammer. Drama/biopic. Written by Dustin Lance Black (Milk). Directed by Clint Eastwood.

FILM SYNOPSIS: As the face of law enforcement in America for almost fifty years, J. Edgar Hoover was feared and admired, reviled and revered. But behind closed doors, the film supports the rumors that he held secrets that would have destroyed his image, his career and his life.

PREVIEW REVIEW: I really donít have much good to say about this film. First, several articles have made a big deal out of the makeup used to age the lead characters, but I found it more distracting than creative. They looked like moving manikins. Usually, Clint Eastwood is an exacting director, but here many scenes are sluggish, the sensitive ones more maudlin than touching, with a tinkling piano thatís sappy and annoying. Iím sure many of my colleagues will find DiCaprioís performance admirable, but somehow, I never felt like I knew the man he was playing. His performance seems built more on conjecture than dimension. And finally, the entire production seems built on supposition rather than fact. I understand, itís not a documentary, but why the character assassination of the formulator of the FBI? Many scenes are presumptuous, done in the incendiary style of Oliver Stone. No one would have had access to those moments, so they are simply made up for the film. Itís very cynical in its construction.

I donít mean to defend J. Edgar Hoover, but every one of his achievements is undermined in this production. Itís more a caricature of the man rather than a three-dimensional portrait. There were rumors that he would don a dress and that he was homosexual, but the film is stating that as fact, when in reality, we donít know. There are many who will say it's a fair assessment, but I found little to admire about director Eastwoodís Hoover. We see a dark side, but little else. J. Edgar is illusionary and offers a prevaricating examination of the man. The film comes across as if an agenda was the driving factor.

As for his gay relationship with his second in command, well, quite honestly Iím not sure the gay community should see this as a stride forward. The mockish mood does little to champion gay rights and the lead character comes across as unstable, unable to mature mentally, even somewhat unhinged. Is that how gay men want to be portrayed in the movies? And if that is an accurate portrait of homosexuality, and this is just a query, then wouldnít that indicate the need for psychiatric aid rather than societyís acceptance of the lifestyle as healthy?

The people involved in the making of the film are proven talents Ė exceptional talents. But they seemed to have lost sight of their goal here. Or, maybe their goal was simply to belittle the head of the FBI. Either way, the film does little to show the achievements of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. I think those involved in that agency deserve a better, more enlightening film presentation.

DVD Alternative: I know itís somewhat corny by todayís standards, but I appreciated the episodic tribute found in The FBI Story with James Stewart. Mr. Stewart pays a positive, even patriotic tribute to the men and women involved in that agency, and while the truth must be exposed, that picture wanted to uplift rather than tear down. Thatís my main problem with J. Edgar. Itís a film more determined to tear down than to build up. I keep wondering if too much cynicism is as destructive as the exposed wrongdoing. But that is a discussion for another day.

Preview Reviewer: Phil Boatwright
Warner Bros.

The following categories contain objective listings of film content which contribute to the subjective numeric Content ratings posted to the left and on the Home page.

Crude Language: None

Obscene Language: Thereís only one obscenity until the Richard Nixon character is presented Ė he then misuses Christís name once and utters two or three curse words.

Profanity: One misuse of Christís name.

Violence: A fight between Hoover and his friend, results in the two kissing.

Sex: It is implied that Hoover is gay, though he is never seen acting out those urges; his friend kisses him, but he rebukes him for it; Hoover then admits to having a sexual affair with actress Dorothy Lamour.

Nudity: None

Sexual Dialogue/Gesture: None

Drugs: Very little drinking.

Other: None

Running Time: 120 minutes +
Intended Audience: Mature viewers.

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