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I've watched this movie twice now, and both times left me absolutely stymied as to why Leonardo was not nominated for an academy award. He was outstanding in this role! The make up crew did a tremendous job as well to really make him look older. I think that because he J. Edgar wasn't a particularly admirable person. He was unscrupulous in his dealings with others and had many peccadillos. It's too bad that the academy often selects nominations based on the likability of the main character, because Leo was horribly overlooked in the year that this movie came out. Anyway, others in the film carry their acting weight as well, and the story is very interestingly told. I wish they had shed more light on his romantic interests, but it seems that information just isn't available. Overall, this is a great movie that has some historical value as well.
Leonardo DiCaprio as usual turns in a stellar performance but the history is imho a bit weak and very exaggerated. I have trouble buying into the allegations of Hoover & Colson's relationship. The period from the 1920s to the mid 1930s produced some very odd, even bizarre characters in the leadership elite of the US government, Hoover was one of the weirdest of the "odd ducks" but not by any means the only one. Hoover was weird but he also made some very positive contributions, including the beginnings of forensic science, the fingerprint system, centralized criminal record keeping and the actual creation of the FBI as the premier law enforcement agency in the world. As with all great men he also had a dark side.
Reviewed in the United States on September 10, 2014
A very general look at a very strange man, who held the powerbrokers hostage in Washington with all the dirt he had on them in his infamous "secret files", which enabled him to hang on to being Director of the FBI for almost 50 years. Leonardo Dicaprio does an excellent job portraying Hoover, and shows some of the pathos that a twisted upbringing, combined with latent homosexuality in a time when it was considered as deviant behavior, did to Hoover, who was in reality the exact opposite of what he demanded from his agents. If you're looking for a biopic, look elsewhere, because Hoover's life was as secretive as his infamous files. Good entertainment, one almost feels sorry for Hoover, and at the same time, he was almost as large a menace as the "Public Enemies" he pursued.
J. Edgar Hoover served an unprecedented length of time and possessed unprecedented power. For someone whose job was to enforce the laws and capture those who broke them, Hoover seemed to never allow the U.S. Constitution get in his way. Hoover famously gathered and hoarded information to protect himself and reign in politicians. President Nixon has been rightly criticized for thinking and acting as if "the President" is above the law. The same was true of Hoover.
Hoover was lucky to have three people devoted to him -- his mother, his secretary Ms. Gandy, and Clyde Tolson. Hoover lived with his mother until she died. His basic character apparently could partially be explained by the dynamics of his relationship with his mother. Ms. Gandy preferred to be married to her job rather than to Hoover though she loyally served Hoover until he died. Hoover's 40 years plus relationship with Clyde Tolson is perhaps even more fascinating and determinative. Director Eastwood purposely left the Hoover-Tolson relationship ambiguous. It seems clear that Tolson loves and admires Hoover, but not as clear how Hoover feels about Tolson except Hoover needs Tolson by his side. Whether any of that involved sex is not clarified.
At first glance the idea of this movie might seem boring, but in actuality it was fascinating to watch this flawed man with his obsession about Communism remain in power while eight Presidents came and went. How does anyone get such power much less expand it and keep it over almost 50 years?
I have to say that I enjoyed this film overall. J. Edgar Hoover is a difficult subject to approach as a film, he was a man liked by almost no one, and feared and loathed by many, which makes him difficult to use as a sympathetic character, and indeed most of the time he's not. J. Edgar Hoover was also a man very much caught up in his own myth, and the film does a good job of showing that. Leonardo DiCaprio does a very good job of bringing the character to life, though I suspect the real J. Edgar was an altogether stiffer and more opaque person. The director (wisely, probably) chose not to delve to deeply into Hoover's alleged homosexuality, choosing to portray him as a celibate closeted gay man, sharing a close friendship with another obviously gay man, but never "consummating" it. Given how little is really known of Hoover's private life, this was probably the prudent choice for this part of the film. The film does a very good job of capturing the style and look of the time accurately, the clothes, cars, interiors, lighting, it's all very authentic looking. We are removed enough from the Hoover era at this point where for most people he's a relatively enigmatic character at this point, far removed from the "G-man" hero he wanted to be remembered as, and also far removed from the fearsome trampler of rights and prolific spy and wiretapper who was so feared and reviled while he was in power. The scene with an overly youthful looking Nixon drew a few chuckles from me, some considered it over the top, but it looks like vintage Nixon to me. If you've read the transcripts of his tapes, his lines in the film ring true. The only thing that I found perplexing was the strange loyalty shown by those closest to him towards such an imperious and often mercurial boss, but perhaps that's just my take on it.
Clint Eastwood does it again. Great film. Nearly as good as Gran Torino, Invictus, Mystic River. As good as Hereafter. Better than Letters From Iwo Jima. Leonardo DiCaprio also is excellent, he rarely puts a foot wrong in any film. Whether the actual Hoover was as oblivious to matters of the heart as portrayed, whether as under the shadow of his mother, I have no idea, I'm no historian. But in terms of performances and of cinematic skill, all good stuff. Only 4 stars because I am not a biopic or history fan.
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on December 9, 2016
Not one of Eastwood's finest the flashbacks from 20s,30s to 70s was irritating,and why concentrate on one case(the Lindburgh kidnapping)? Di Caprio was OK but the supprt cast was non existent Judy Dench apart. Also the link between his aide Tolson and Hoovers 'alleged' homosexuality was not fully explained,historians are divided as to whether Hoover was gay and why no mention of his two affairs with Dorothy Lamour and Ginger Rogers mum? so at best he was bi-sexual What a pity all the dirt he accumulated over the years was never published, a few Presidents would be spinning in their graves!
This is watchable but it takes too many liberties with what is not known as key elements of the plot. We do not know if JEH was actually gay and creating fictitious incidents to show that he was undermines the film as a true story. If the truth was known it would undoubtedly be a fascinating story - but this isn't the truth or even a reasonable supposition.
JEH was a mysterious, complex and contradictory man - but this isn't his story. Its just a watchable film about a fictitious character loosely based on J Edgar Hoover. Expect some decent acting and a followable (if not entire coherent) plot - but there are no insights here. An entirely fictional story about someone vaguely like JEH would probably be a much better film.
Produced and directed by Clint Eastwood – who also wrote the music, which is very good – this portrayal of J Edgar Hoover is very powerful in every aspect of the man’ life and his struggle not only to establish the FBI but to conceal his homosexuality and his incredibly deep love for his partner, played by Armie Hammer. Constantly having to fight for every little inch of ground in investigations, Hoover resorted to underhand tactics and was incredibly dishonest in his portrayal of how events happened. Even his memoirs were so inaccurate they can only be deemed a work of fiction. The make-up, particularly as the characters age, was astounding as it was so realistic. This is a very good film to watch and one that I enjoyed.
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on September 20, 2016
Leonardo DiCaprio does an excellent job in this movie. He is well supported by perhaps most notably Judie Dench. The film has particular interest for anyone interested in the 20th Century history of the US of A. Outside that it may struggle. But within that interest it is a very interesting film. I am no expert in the 'Hoover' story, I just about know enough to understand it. I enjoyed it.