A Biography of a Bizarre Man
Review of J. Edgar (2011), dir. Clint Eastwood
After the amazing Million Dollar Baby or Gran Torino, Clint Eastwood’s latest movie, J. Edgar, is not a shocking surprise. However, for those who barely know who J. Edgar Hoover was, it’s an information package.
J. Edgar Hoover, the man who was the first director and co-founder of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and remained in his office for nearly fifty years gathering secret information, insisted that America needed armed police and he as well tried to implement modern forensic methods and state-of-the-art laboratories for investigation. He came up with the idea of collecting criminals’ fingerprints. Some claim he was one of the most powerful men in the USA for almost half a century, feared by six presidents who wanted to get rid of him but didn’t dare to do so.
The screenwriter Dustin Lance Black opens the story by showing a middle-aged Hoover (Leonardo DiCaprio) dictating his memoirs to a young man working for the Bureau. His carrier starts in 1919 when as a 24-year old ambitious man, he gets employed by the Justice Department. Soon, he makes his way to the top, and as a strong and decisive man he picks his co-workers and founds the F.B.I. His secretary and lifelong friend, Helen Gandy, played by Naomi Watts, supports him and obeys all his commands. She remains loyal even after his death when she is asked to get rid of all the secret files they have gathered in years to avoid giving them to the president Nixon.
Some say that information is power. I guess that was Hoover’s golden rule. In the movie we are shown why all American presidents feared him. Hoover has evidence that Kennedy’s brother was having sexual intercourses with devious women. He has secret letters of Roosevelt’s wife and her lover, a woman. He possesses a tape on which Martin Luther King, Jr. is making love to his mistress in a hotel room.
The surprising moment of the movie comes with the character of Hoover’s deputy, Clyde Tolson (Armie Hammer), a charming tall man, who reveals his true and deep feelings for his boss. Yes. One of the most powerful men of America was probably a homosexual. He might have been a strong and unshakable character for the public but in his private life he was a coward afraid of his own feelings and his mother! When she discovers that her son might be a gay, she tells him, “I would rather have a dead son than a daffodil for a son.” What a loving parent! However, he gets relieved when she dies and he can finally fulfil his desires. He puts on her nightgown and accessories and speaks in a woman’s voice.
There is much more to get to know from this movie. It is a classic biography of a bizarre man. At some moments you will admire him; at others, you will be overwhelmed by pity, but for sure, you will get to know more about a very important character in the US history, J. Edgar Hoover.
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