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Friday, November 11, 2011

Movie Review: J. Edgar

Men are often not quite as their purposes are laid before them. Their mind is willing; their mission assured; but the entirety runs afoul of many dark and mysterious ailments of the psyche. J.Edgar Hoover is a troubled soul, hardly a "complete soul" as correctly depicted, but as the burgeoning power that came to represent the FBI, he had no equal for nearly 50 years.

The movie focuses firstly on Hoover (Leonardo DiCaprio), the up-and-comer climber, which took the bumbling department of the Bureau of Investigation and remade it into his hyper-organized, scientifically-innovative, paranoid self. The growth (and advertising) of the G-men as the people to turn to in those perilous times with the gangsters and commies just a door away resonates. Director Clint Eastwood captures this era well - a focus that is recognized in the details and supporting events that lead one to believe Hoover (then) was doing the job, and gradually, enjoying the governmental perks. Meanwhile, his mother's (Judi Dench) hold on J. Edgar never abated. Issues stayed present. Hoover danced around them to meager effect.

The flash forward technique to show the FBI director growing older, more suspicious, more defiant of all that would question his methods, lacks. To an expert movie goer, you get the point: details were thin and convoluted historically, and yet, an interesting part lay there. By then, Hoover's lack of any real, open, or caring relationships with only his secretary, ("Miss Gandy", Naomi Watts) and his 2nd in charge (Clyde Tolson, Armie Hammer) shown as the balancing forces to Hoover's paranoia, and outright, blackmailing-for-power personality.

J. Edgar does what justice it can to the man. Hoover's trek through the American landscape of 1920 through 1970 - a time of Communism, racial tensions, Civil Rights, gangsters (via Prohibition), sexual evolution, and wars to end it all - ultimately left him caught in a personal time warp. Once a man fulfilling serendipitously his ambitions, often inventive, quick-speaking (by practice), and laborious, became a man severely out-of-touch and scared, but still held the powerful Queen in the back row to pull out to threaten the new king, the new President, as needed. His repeated trick was to lay fear into his opponents - usually not because of his overall ends, the ritually trotted out "security of the country" line - but to him, the-afraid-to-bend-or-evolve, confused boy of half-century prior.

The cast captures enough to watch the film, if only to leave you to really wonder about what all the information this man kept in the files that went to the shredder. Shredding was what this man did to his own life. Refusing to ever to complete himself - and find his own unique, if sinfully true, information inside himself.
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