Two Jews on Film - By Joan Alperin-Schwartz: Every once in awhile, you experience a performance by an actor that simply blows your mind. That's exactly what happened to me, when I watched Leonardo DiCaprio portray J. Edgar Hoover in Clint Eastwood's new film, 'J. Edgar.'
What makes a great performance are the subtle things an actor does. Things that inform the character… a gesture, a look, body language, the tilt of the head. DiCaprio obviously understands this because he absolutely nails the part.
Equally brilliant, is Armie Hammer (The Social Network) as Clyde Tolson, Hoover's long time companion, second in command at the FBI and perhaps... his lover. For me, I found their relationship the most interesting aspect of this film.
Okay so anyone can Google J. Edgar Hoover and get a slew of facts about the man as well as contrary opinions regarding his sexuality. But one thing is for sure, J. Edgar Hoover was a monster... a blackmailing, lying, egotistical, cunning, sexually repressed, control freak who was badly in need of a good shrink.
All you have to do is observe the interaction between J. Edgar and his mother (the wonderful, Judi Dench) and you'll understand where J. Edgar got his insanity from. Mother Hoover was a super religious, dominating woman, who brought up her boy to believe that he was a God.
In all fairness, J. Edgar was quite intelligent. He came up with some of the most innovative crime fighting techniques that the FBI still uses today.
And thanks to his infamous 'Confidential File' which contained dirt on practically everyone, Hoover managed to stay the head of the FBI for almost 50 years, through 8 different Presidents and three wars.
There are so many good things in Eastwood's film. The cast of famous historical character we get to meet, Charles Lindberg, the famous gangsters of the 20's, 30's, Emma Goldmen, Dorothy Lamour, Robert Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Richard Nixon. Eastwood takes us from the early 1900's right up to the 70's.
The cast of supporting characters are wonderful including Naomi Watts as Hoover's loyal, long time executive assistant, Helen Gandy, who worked by his side most of her adult life.
The only problem I have with the film is that everything feels a bit too tidy, too measured. That might have to do with the screenplay, written by Dustin Lance Black (Milk) I had moments when I found myself wondering what this story would have been like in the hands of some wild European filmmaker.
It's for that reason I gave 'J. Edgar' 4 bagels out of 5...
Also, please check out our video to see how many bagels the other half of 'Two Jews on Film' gave 'J. Edgar' Hint: Once again we weren't even close.
'J. Edgar' opens in theaters, Wednesday November 9, 2011. Put it on your 'must see' list for sure.