By Chase Palmer
In this new movie, Leonardo DiCaprio plays J. Edgar Hoover, who was the head of the FBI from its inception to his death in 1972. J. Edgar chronicles this man’s life during this time period and also dabbles in some rumors over his supposed cross-dressing habit and sexuality; however, the film rarely exploits these themes. They focus more on his role in the Palmer Raids, Gangster Wars, and such. This makes the film have plenty of historical elements to it. If you are a history buff then I would recommend “J. Edgar” to you. However, if you usually fall asleep in AP European History, then you might as well skip this film.
This film is not perfect, nevertheless. The 37-year-old DiCaprio plays Hoover even as an old man, meaning that this movie contains a heavy use of facial prosthetics and CGI, required to make DiCaprio and other main actors in the film appear older. The makeup guy’s approach to this technique makes the characters look like unrealistic wax figures. At first it seemed funny, but after a while it took away from the film’s believability aspect. Although the makeup makes DiCaprio’s and other actor’s parts in the movie look like caricatures rather than characters, I thought that the film’s cast was pretty strong, not anything Oscar worthy, but still pretty strong.
The reason why I said J. Edgar ‘rarely’ explores the rumors aimed at Hoover is because I felt that the writer was trying to persuade to us that J Edgar Hoover was gay, a rumor that surfaced after his death. One scene in the film shows Hoover making out with Associate FBI Director Clyde Tolson, played by Armie Hammer. I later learned that his film was written by Dustin Lance Black. I noticed that all of Black’s movies leading up to this one were about homosexuality, the most well-known of these being “Milk“, another biographical film about gay rights activist Harvey Milk. Think what you want about these scenes in “J. Edgar” and Black’s intentions behind them. I personally think that the gay rumors over Hoover served as Black’s original intentions to write the screenplay to “J. Edgar”.
The worst quality of the film is the color. The color is poorly lit and gives the whole movie a bland effect throughout. I believe that “J. Edgar“ is worth seeing, but if you are interested in J. Edgar Hoover’s life and the times in which he lived, I recommend this film only as an entry point.