J. Edgar


The aging make-up on the three wonderful principals in Clint Eastwood's intriguing J. Edgar -- Leonardo DiCaprio, Naomi Watts and Armie Hammer -- is a bit startling but rather than distracting me it forced me to pay greater attention to what the actors were saying and to their eyes ... that's where this story of loyalty and trust was actually played out. The script by Dustin Lance Black, who won the Oscar for the screenplay for Milk, is disjointed and theatrical -- like its human subject -- but it is also enormously affecting. It's the story of the intersection of crime, politics and power in the person of the founder of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. But it's also a love story, actually three love stories: Hoover's Oedipal relationship with his mother, his chaste romance with his second-in-command, Clyde Tolson, and his megalomaniacal love for this country. It's not a hero's tale; Hoover is portrayed as often cold toward and demeaning of those closest to him. But that's not to say Hoover is an unsympathetic character. In one important scene late in the film, Hoover asks his dutiful assistant, Helen Gandy (Watts), "Do I kill everything I love?" She assures him he does not but it's said with the kind of caution one summons when trying to console without revealing one's lack of conviction. You can hear it in her voice and see it in her eyes.

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