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The Express

Leonardo DiCaprio in J. Edgar Hoover, debatable

“J. Edgar,” directed by Clint Eastwood, stars Leonardo DiCaprio as J. Edgar Hoover in the film which chronicles his life from his beginnings as an ambitious assistant at the Justice Department to his tenure as the first director of the FBI.

Clint Eastwood, possibly the most respected man in Hollywood, doesn’t always hit his mark as a director.

“Unforgiven,” “Letters from Iwo Jima,” and were big critical hits. “J. Edgar” however, is not one.

The film, while not boring or horrible by any means, does not do a great job of diving into Hoover’s mind and just meanders around his life.

The production design is fantastic; every detail for the appropriate period that the film covers feels distinct, even though they all do have the washed-out coloring that makes the film look gray for its entirety.

Judi Dench plays Hoover’s domineering mother, whose homophobia seemingly forces Hoover to suppress his own sexuality, which the film doesn’t explore until the second act, with the appearance of Arnie Hammer as Clyde Tolson, Hoover’s supposedly real-life lover.

This is where the film loses itself.

We don’t ever see Hoover harassing and silencing political opponents who questioned his sexuality, like in reality. He just keeps Tolson by his side constantly until a violent conflict between them.

DiCaprio shines, showcasing Hoover’s emotions at the exact dramatic moment he needs to, but the film around him doesn’t.
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The trailers promised a suspenseful thriller about a man trying to protect his own secrets as well as using others to blackmail them, but the film shows those aspects in a much less interesting way.

It’s glossed over; the real bulk of the film is just going over events in Hoover’s life that made him famous. It makes for a comprehensive account of his FBI career, but not for his mind.

However, the film does do a decent job of showing how Hoover’s ego guided him throughout his career. There are numerous scenes showing Hoover getting bent out of shape at simple observations made by other people about his actions, and then he dismisses them.

The film also effectively portrays Hoover as one of the most progressive figures in the film, and this is where the film is very good. Hoover, played very well by DiCaprio in these scenes, aggressively pushes for better police work involving forensics and strong investigation.

Unfortunately, these scenes are limited, and they don’t include the more interesting aspects of Hoover’s life, like him trying to silence his opponents through blackmail. Blackmail, a tactic Hoover employed in real life, is merely hinted at in this film.

The script doesn’t go deep enough into Hoover’s moral ambiguity and his shady law practices. The film touches the surface on most of his life, but it never gets deep enough.

“J. Edgar” is a forgettable biopic that had the credentials to be mesmerizing.

“J. Edgar” is currently playing at Century Stadium 14, UA Laguna Village, and Regal Natomas in Sacramento.

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