Walking out after viewing the film J. Edgar, I said to my wife that something seemed wrong about the movie. Despite it being captivating and worth seeing, I was bothered.
The early reviews have been mostly positive, particularly about the directing, by Clint Eastwood, a director I’ve come to admire, the acting, of Leonardo DiCaprio, an actor who I’ve grudgingly come to admire also, and the writing, of Dustin Black (Milk).
The following morning, Ellen said something akin to, “ Having lived through the excesses, the flagrant violations of the law, and systemic violations of the constitutional rights of individuals under J Edgar Hoover’s reign at the FBI, the movie is too sympathetic a portrait of the man. But it’s nothing less than what you’d expect from the politically conservative director Clint Eastwood.”
I think she’s about right, at least about it being sympathetic. Without wanting to spoil the film for those of you who plan to see it, know that this portrait of Hoover, while largely, if not exclusively, based on the facts of Hoover’s life and his directorship of the FBI, seeks to describe and to explain (and thus ‘forgive’?) what made this man the way he was.
It is a soft portrait. It is a sympathetic portrait in some ways. You learn much of who he really was, his secrets, his insecurities, and what led to his excesses. And if you did not know of the early good that he did in building the FBI into an important institution, you will learn that too.
But then maybe Ellen and I are too focused on what happened in the 60s and 70s.
I’d be curious about your reactions to the film. The first report I have from a long time Washington resident is that he and his companion “loved the film.”