Too hard to crack

Sunday Tasmanian - Tassie Living - - Movies - LEIGH PAATSCH

J. EDGAR ( M)

Di­rec­tor: Clint East­wood ( In­vic­tus ) Stars: Leonardo Dicaprio, Ar­mie Ham­mer, Naomi Watts, Josh Lu­cas, Judi Dench

A man who knew too much, too hard to get to know

THIS cu­ri­ous biopic of J. Edgar Hoover, the found­ing di­rec­tor of the FBI, comes down with a mild case of the same af­flic­tion that re­cently blighted The Iron Lady.

Like Mar­garet Thatcher, Hoover in his prime, which be­gan in the Great De­pres­sion and ended shortly be­fore Water­gate, was an in­tensely di­vi­sive fig­ure.

Some grudg­ingly ad­mired him. Oth­ers, many oth­ers, openly de­spised him.

And yet, J. Edgar rather dain­tily side­steps pro­vok­ing any of the ex­treme re­ac­tions Hoover freely wel­comed through­out his con­tro­ver­sial ca­reer.

Equally renowned and ridiculed for his mega­lo­ma­ni­a­cal pur­suit of what he per­ceived to be ‘‘ threats to com­mon de­cency’’, Hoover was a hard­liner and per­versely proud of it.

To soft- sell the irk­some essence of the man is a re­cur­ring flaw which de­nies

J. Edgar much of its po­ten­tial im­pact. How­ever, one fac­tor sure to keep in­ter­ested par­ties watch­ing is a skil­fully nu­anced por­trayal of Hoover by Leonardo Dicaprio. The fa­mously baby- faced ac­tor plays Hoover across a daunt­ing time span: from his 20s through to his death at 77.

Though of­ten buried be­neath sev­eral lay­ers of la­tex jowls, veins and love han­dles – and it must be said the make- up ef­fects in this film do take some get­ting used to – Dicaprio never loses his grasp of a no­to­ri­ously slip­pery char­ac­ter.

The film’s nar­ra­tive struc­ture is also some­thing of an ac­quired taste. All en­try and exit points are guarded by Hoover him­self: through­out J. Edgar, key events are linked by scenes of the el­derly Hoover dic­tat­ing his mem­oirs to a pass­ing pa­rade of per­sonal as­sis­tants.

It goes with­out say­ing the man is not the most re­li­able of nar­ra­tors. Just as Hoover forged his ca­reer on find­ing out what oth­ers had to hide, there was plenty he needed to keep from public view him­self.

Though Hoover ranked ho­mo­sex­u­als closely be­hind com­mu­nists as ‘‘ en­e­mies of the state’’, the true na­ture of his close per­sonal re­la­tion­ship with long- time sec­ond- in- com­mand Clyde Tol­son ( Ar­mie Ham­mer) was, at the very least, pla­ton­i­cally gay.

Now in the 21st cen­tury, that’s no big deal. How­ever, dur­ing Hoover’s in­tim­i­dat­ing four- decade reign as Amer­ica’s self­ap­pointed moral guardian, any me­dia men­tion of his bond with Tol­son would have brought a swift and per­ma­nent end.

The best stretches of J. Edgar fo­cus on how Hoover was able to keep this and many other per­sonal se­crets locked in the closet.

How­ever, as Hoover was such an ex­pert at cov­er­ing his tracks – those fa­bled files van­ished within hours of his death – di­rec­tor Clint East­wood and screen­writer Dustin Lance Black ( Milk ) are con­fined to guess­ing, hint­ing and hop­ing we get the drift.

Now show­ing Vil­lage and State Cine­mas

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.