I don't really know much about J. Edgar Hoover. I just know that his position in the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) made him one of the most powerful men in America -- equal to, or even surpassing, power the country's presidents wield. (Imagine, his reign in the FBI lasted through eight presidencies!)
Watching the movie J. Edgar made it easier for me to know more about this famous man without the need to pore through any biography books or dozens of articles I don't have time to read. I'm glad I went to the press preview the other day because I did learn a lot not only about Hoover but also a bit more of U.S. history.
Leonardo DiCaprio (his interview about the movie here) has definitely evolved into a gifted actor over the years. I haven't been able to watch Inception yet but I heard he was also good in it. In J. Edgar, he was able to portray a complex and enigmatic man who trusted very few people in his lifetime. It must be really hard to play a role that spans decades but DiCaprio made it work. He was very believable in his portrayal of an eager man in his 20's up to an old man in his '70s. It helped a lot that the makeup, which aided the aging transformations, were also exceptional.
I loved how Naomi Watts played Helen Gandy, Hoover's personal secretary who was loyal 'til the end. The woman must have been a paragon in real life! Dame Judi Dench, likewise, did a wonderful performance as Hoover's intimidating but soft-spoken mom. (Interviews with Watts and Dench here). It was a revelation how such an influential man's demeanor could still be reduced into that of a little boy's every time he's in the presence of his mother. DiCaprio and Dench shared several unforgettable scenes in the movie that showcased both their acting talents.
Armie Hammer (more about him here) portrayed Clyde Tolson, Hoover's right hand man, friend, and rumored lover. The relationship between the two men were slowly revealed throughout the story and I couldn't help but feel sorry for them because, despite the close companionship they shared, not being able to show their real feelings to the public or even to themselves must have been a source of loneliness and isolation for years. As producer Brian Grazer observed, "They were both a product of their time." Kudos though for both men because the emotions that came across the screen felt very genuine.
Of course, being a very private person, we'll never exactly know what really went behind closed doors in Hoover's personal life. But at least, we were given glimpses of who Hoover was and what must have been going on in his mind when he made those decisions, some of which are still making an impact in today's world.
Director Clint Eastwood has once again created a masterpiece. This is one of those movies that switch from the past and present times with such speed that would normally confuse viewers. Surprisingly, it wasn't hard to follow everything that's happening. That's how good the editing was!
If you enjoy watching biopics, you'll like J. Edgar. Catch it in Philippine cinemas starting today, January 25. It's distributed worldwide by Warner Bros. Pictures, a Warner Bros. Entertainment Company.