The gay love story occupies a curious place in the minds of populist cinema goers of late: Novelty. Throughout Clint Eastwood’s J. Edgar, the audience would snicker and laugh to one-another, just above their breath, at any sort of implication of romance between J. Edgar Hoover (Leonardo Dicaprio) and his life-long, possibly fabulous companion, Clyde Tolson (Armie Hammer). Just a scant few years ago audiences were actively protesting “Brokeback Mountain” and now they’re giddy like school girls during a 5th grade game of Spin-the-bottle. I suppose that’s progress.
What isn’t progressive, or particularly new, or exciting, is the film J.Edgar. The problems start with the movie’s identity. It’s not sure if it wants to be the above repressed love story, the story of Hoover’s rise to power and revolutionizing of crime scene forensics, or this weird sort of psycho thing where everything he does is for his mother dearest. So essentially there are four (maybe five) movies battling out for screen time.
As it stands the movie attempts to take us into the paranoid mind of J.Edgar Hoover, who is played pretty wonderfully by Leonardo Dicaprio. The makeup works in letting him slip into the role. This isn’t a movie like Inception where you’re not sure of his character’s name or direction, so you just refer to him by the actor’s name. My only complaint is that when Leonardo says “Clyde” he sounds a bit like Cartman from Southpark. Armie Hammer deserves praise for bringing an incredible presence to the screen, and demonstrates a pretty terrific range, especially late in the film. It’s just a shame these actors were forced to work with such ham-handed material.
The script is lacking in nuance and tends to replace things with melodrama, including the giggle-fit inducing climax of the love story which is literally a big gay wrestling match. Another example is the scene in with Hoover puts on his recently deceased mother’s dress. Then, the film dares to pull a freakin’ fight club and leads us to believe the majority of scenes we saw for the past 2 hours or so were mostly untrue.
What the movie should have done would be to show J. Edgar actively blackmailing folks for a variety of nefarious deeds, and letting the knowledge of what he’s capable of , prevent himself from giving in to his desires for clyde, or living a happy life, because he’d assume that there was always someone watching. But alas, no.
I left the film not knowing nearly as much as I should about one of the most fascinating men in the history our noble country. The stories and tales and secrets and accomplishments of J. Edgar could probably write a movie by themselves, and it would be better than this one.