DVD Review: J Edgar

An excellent portrayal of an enigma

Rating: 5 out of 5

John Edgar Hoover rose to become the head of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the FBI, & was its head for 48 years. As such he would stop at nothing to protect his country & himself.

To do so, he illegally gathered personal information on the all the senior officials in the administration including the President. Naturally he uncovered the dalliances of both Roosevelt & his wife, Eleanor.

Remarkably he served under eight presidents waging wars against threats both real & imaginary. His solution was to bend the rules to obtain the desired results.

For this whole period that Hoover was in charge, his closest colleague was Clyde Tolson, who was also his constant companion. The rumours of a homosexual affair is not impossible as neither man ever got married or dated females & when they travelled they always shared a hotel room.

Edgar adored his mother & it was her influence which was an abiding inspiration & his conscience. On her passing, he was crushed. From the prominent displays relating to his mother, his lounge can be considered as a shrine to her.

I gained the impression that apart from an affinity for males, a latent Oedipus complex lurked within him as the relationship with his mother was too close & unnatural.

His secretary, Helen Gandy, was an old-maid & apart from Clyde Tolson, was perhaps the person most privy to Hoover’s machinations & indiscretions. She remained loyal to the end & on his death destroyed all incriminating personal files that Edgar had compiled over the years.

Edgar was a dominating & overbearing person who never took no for an answer. Despite the closeness of his relationship with Clyde & constant plea requesting his advice, he never once accepted that advice.

The strength of movie is being able to correctly portray Edgar & Clyde as they age over 50 years. It is not only the physical appearance which correctly mimics that of an old person but all the minor aspects such as the slightly stooped walk. Their talent is tested in their deportment, behaviour & even their speech.

The movie ends on a sombre note as both Edgar & Tolson approach the end of their lives. The bond between the two remains just as strong but Edgar refuses to accept that Tolson cannot be at work to be his confidant & crutch.

Edgar’s life story is told mainly through an older Hoover reciting back his life story to a biographer. During this process Edgar plays loose with the facts & overstates his role in these events.

In summary, this movie presents a visceral look at a complex individual played magnificently by Leonardo DiCaprio whether as a 24 year old or as a 70 year old.

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