An interpretation of history in depressive hues – that is J Edgar in one line.
Bring together a master storyteller and an expressive actor and you would always have a good movie. The director, Clint Eastwood has done something that he has always been good at. For Leonardo Di Caprio, who plays the lead in the movie, it must have been one of the most challenging roles ever.
The story deals with the life of the former director of FBI, J Edgar Hoover, who was instrumental in bringing the organisation to the level it is today. Although his achievements have been recognised by many, his mode of operation, attitudes towards certain sections of the society and even sexuality have been matters of controversy. However, not much is known about this enigmatic character’s personal life and the movie encourages the audience to look through a framework of empathy, to go beyond official tags that were associated with him and understand the human that J Edgar Hoover really was.
The script from Lance Black (of the movie Milk) moves back and forth in time, creating a non-linear approach and at times one might be confused jumping from one era to another in quick cuts. The narrative follows the path of Hoover dictating his story and hence starts from the later stage of his life. Di Caprio is seen in a makeup that is not exactly convincing enough to show an old man rambling on his past life. The whole movie runs on a dull colour code, emphasising the personality of the lead character.
Other major characters are Clyde Tolson, Hoover’s partner and presumed lover played by Armie Hammer and Helen Gandy, Hoover’s secretary played by Naomi Watts. However, these characters get little attention except in terms of their association with Hoover, who does show considerable screen presence. Tolson’s relationship with Hoover is highlighted, along with the position of Gandy who held a strong bond with him.
However, the audience is bound to feel lost towards the latter half of the movie, almost to the point of wondering where the story is leading. And if you are waiting for any dramatic turning point at the time, you might be disappointed, because except for the obvious revelation that J Edgar Hoover tried to exaggerate his autobiography, there is nothing else.
The movie holds mostly for the character played by Di Caprio. He brilliantly handles the irritable, moody Edgar who used to stutter and had to be trained to speak looking at the mirror. Due credit to the director for bringing the best out of the actor as well. After 137 minutes, you would either hate him or sympathise with him, yet find it hard to ignore him.
Photos: via Wikimedia Commons