I often like to see a documentary-type film. When I first heard there was a film being made about J. Edgar Hoover I was interested because all I really knew about the guy was that he used to wear skirts and one of them is on display at the FBI museum in Washington and that he was the founder of the FBI. Of course I knew that filmmaking takes liberties with truths so I knew a lot of it was going to be built upon and made to fit with the story Clint Eastwood was trying to tell. I have to say I was a bit disappointed with J. Edgar.
The film begins with Edgar (as he apparently liked to be called) in 1919 when his boss’s home was bombed by communists. From that day he dedicated his life to finding communists and taking them down any way he could think of. The story of Hoover is not told in sequential order it flips from the past to the present as he tells his story to multiple agents whom he assigns to type up what he has to say.
We learn that he kept files on several important statesmen as well as celebrities. One of the files highlighted is one from Eleanor Roosevelt to her lover… her female lover. Hoover believed the first to be having an affair with a communist but it turned out to be a woman. At the end of his life he supposedly told his secretary Miss. Gandy (Naomi Watts) to destroy all his files. The files he kept were used to blackmail several people, he even blackmailed the presidents because they always wanted to bring down his organization but after she showed up they could do nothing. Hoover did not like Kennedy or Nixon because they could not be easily blackmailed or swayed.
I went nuts with all the communist talk because I hate that part of American history. Men like Hoover and McCarthy went absolutely batshit with the communist outcry to the point where later in life they were considered insane and an embarrassment.
It was interesting to see all the man is credited with doing: through the Lindberg case he received more funding for his forensic unit and demonstrated what that science could do to solve cases; the FBI took down John Dillinger (which he took credit for and got made when the actual man Purvis got all the credit); created the catalogue system for organizing books in the Library of Congress (that was my favorite thing I learned because if there is another form of media besides movies I adore it is books).
The movie did touch on his personal life but it was not entirely the main focus since there is very little record of it. What little is known was filled in by the writer Dustin Lance Black. I am more of a facts and achievements kind of person I am more interested in what a person did than their personal lives so I was happy with what was shown.
A few things I really liked were how they plugged some of Warner Bros’ old films like Public Enemy and The G-Men. They also had Edgar meet Ginger Rogers (which was not a good scene. I read Rogers’s autobiography and she makes no mention of having ever met Hoover. They also made her mother look like a whore and Leila Rogers was definitely not like her movie character) and Shirley Temple.
I was reading Leonard Maltin’s review of the movie and he said that Clint Eastwood committed a sin: he made the movie dull. I could not agree more with Maltin’s review the movie was outrageously dull. I understand that this is a historical drama with some facts taken from real life but it was just boring. When the movie was over I turned to my friend commenting that it was about an hour way too long. The cast was great with so many recognizable actors and actresses but they could not help the movie. Leonardo DiCaprio was excellent this is one of his best performances but even he could not help the movie either.
J. Edgar was not the greatest movie I have ever seen. It felt like a lot of the talent was wasted. If you want to see J. Edgar do not waste your money wait until it comes out on DVD to rent it.