Template:Infobox film J. Edgar is a 2011 American biographical drama film directed by Clint Eastwood, written by Dustin Lance Black. The film focuses on the career of FBI director J. Edgar Hoover from the Palmer Raids onwards, including an examination of his private life as an alleged closeted homosexual.
The film stars Leonardo DiCaprio as the title character, Armie Hammer, Naomi Watts, Josh Lucas, Judi Dench and Ed Westwick. J. Edgar opened the AFI Fest 2011 in Los Angeles on November 3, 2011, and had its limited release on November 9, followed by wide release on November 11.
Plot[edit | edit source]
The film opens with J. Edgar Hoover (Leonardo DiCaprio) in his office during his later years. He asks that a writer (played by Ed Westwick) be let in, so that he may tell the story of the origin of the FBI for the sake of the public. Hoover explains that the story begins in 1919, when A. Mitchell Palmer was Attorney General and Hoover's boss at the Justice Department. Palmer suffers an assassination attempt, but is unharmed when the bomb explodes earlier than intended. Hoover recalls that the police handling of the crime scene was primitive, and that it was that night that he recognized the importance of criminal science. Later, Hoover visits his mother (Judi Dench), and tells her that Palmer has put him in charge of a new anti-radical division, and that he has already begun compiling a list of suspected radicals. He leaves to meet Helen Gandy (Naomi Watts), who has just started as a secretary at the Justice Department. Hoover takes Gandy to the Library of Congress, and shows her the card catalog system he devised. He muses about how easy it would be to solve crimes if every citizen were as easily identifiable as the books in the library. When Hoover attempts to kiss her, she recoils. Hoover gets down on his knees and asks her to marry him, citing her organization and education, but his request is once again denied. However, Gandy agrees to become his personal secretary.
Despite his close monitoring of suspected foreign radicals, Hoover finds that the Department of Labor refuses to deport anyone without clear evidence of a crime; however, Anthony Caminetti the commissioner general of immigration dislikes the prominent anarchist Emma Goldman. Hoover arranges to discredit her marriage and make her eligible for deportation, setting a precedent of deportation for radical conspiracy. After several Justice Department raids of suspected radical groups, many leading to deportation, Palmer loses his job as Attorney General. Under a subsequent Attorney General, Harlan F. Stone, Hoover is made director of the Justice Department's Bureau of Investigation. He is introduced to Clyde Tolson (Armie Hammer), a recently graduated lawyer, and takes his business card. Later, while reviewing job applications with Helen Gandy, Hoover asks if Tolson had applied. Gandy says he had, and Hoover interviews and hires Tolson.
The Bureau pursues a string of gangster and bank robbery crimes across the Midwest, including the high profile John Dillinger, with general success. When the Lindbergh kidnapping captures national attention, President Hoover asks the Bureau to investigate. Hoover employs several novel techniques, including the monitoring of registration numbers on ransom bills, and expert analysis of the kidnapper's handwriting. The birth of the FBI Crime Lab is seen as a product of Hoover's determination to analyze the homemade wooden ladder left at the crime scene. When the monitored bills begin showing up in New York City, the investigators find a filling station attendant who wrote down the license plate number of the man who gave him the bill. This leads to the arrest, and eventual conviction, of Bruno Hauptmann for the kidnapping and murder of the Lindbergh child.
After going to a Shirley Temple movie with Hoover's mother, Hoover and Tolson decide to go out to a club. When Ginger Rogers asks Hoover if he ever wishes he had someone to keep him warm at night, he responds that he has dedicated his life to the bureau. Ginger's mother asks Hoover to dance and he becomes agitated, saying that he and Tolson must leave, as they have a lot of work to do in the morning. When he gets home he shares his dislike of dancing with girls with his mother, and she tells him she would rather have a dead son than a "daffodil" for a son. She then insists on teaching him to dance, and they dance in her bedroom. Soon after, Hoover and Tolson go on a vacation to the horse races. That evening, Hoover tells Tolson that he cares deeply for him, and Tolson returns the feeling by stating that he loves Hoover. However, Hoover claims to be considering marriage to a young woman twenty years his junior, Dorothy Lamour, he has been seeing in New York City, provoking outrage from Tolson. Tolson accuses Hoover making a fool out of him and then begins throwing insults at Hoover, and consequently they begin throwing punches at each other and cause grave damage to the hotel room in the process; they eventually end up fighting on the floor. The fight ends when Tolson gets an upper hand over Hoover, and suddenly kisses him. Hoover demands that it must never happen again; Tolson says that it won't, and attempts to leave. Hoover apologizes and begs him to stay, but Tolson only says that if Hoover ever mentioned another woman again, their friendship would be over. He then leaves, with Hoover professing love for him moments after.
Years later, Hoover feels his strength begin to decline. He requires daily visits by a doctor, and Tolson suffers a stroke which leaves him in a severely weakened state. An attempt by Hoover to blackmail Martin Luther King, Jr. into declining his Nobel Peace Prize proves ineffective, and Martin Luther King, Jr. accepts the prize. Hoover eventually begins to consider his mortality and tells Helen Gandy to destroy his secret files if he were to die to prevent Nixon from possessing them. When Tolson appeals to Hoover to retire when Hoover comes to visit him, Hoover refuses, claiming that Richard Nixon is going to destroy the bureau he has created. Tolson then accuses Hoover of exaggerating his involvement in many of the bureau's actions. Upon Hoover's death, Helen Gandy is seen destroying stacks of files, assumed to be Hoover's rumored "personal and confidential" files as Nixon does a eulogy on television for Hoover.
Cast[edit | edit source]
- Leonardo DiCaprio as J. Edgar Hoover
- Armie Hammer as Clyde Tolson
- Naomi Watts as Helen Gandy
- Josh Lucas as Charles Lindbergh
- Judi Dench as Anna Marie Hoover, Hoover's mother
- Damon Herriman as Bruno Hauptmann
- Jeffrey Donovan as Robert F. Kennedy
- Ed Westwick as Agent Smith, Hoover's biographer
- Zach Grenier as John Condon
- Ken Howard as U.S. Attorney General Harlan F. Stone
- Stephen Root as Arthur Koehler
- Denis O'Hare as Albert S. Osborn
- Geoff Pierson as Alexander Mitchell Palmer
- Lea Thompson as Lela Rogers
- Gunner Wright as Dwight D. Eisenhower
- Christopher Shyer as Richard Nixon
- Miles Fisher as Agent Garrison
Charlize Theron, who was originally rumored to be playing Helen Gandy, dropped out of the project to do Snow White & the Huntsman and Eastwood considered Amy Adams before finally selecting Naomi Watts as Theron's replacement.
Release[edit | edit source]
Critical response[edit | edit source]
Reviews have been mostly mixed, with many critics praising DiCaprio's performance but feeling that, overall, the film lacks coherence. As of May 19, review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reports that 44% of 211 critics have given the film a positive review, with a 55% approval rating among top critics with a rating average of 5.8 out of 10 and 6.7 out of 10 respectively. The website's consensus is that, "Leonardo DiCaprio gives a predictably powerhouse performance, but J. Edgar stumbles in all other departments: cheesy makeup, poor lighting, confusing narrative, and humdrum storytelling." Metacritic, which assigns a weighted average score out of 100 to reviews from mainstream critics, gives the film a score of 59 based on 42 reviews.
Roger Ebert wrote that the film is "fascinating", "masterful", and praised DiCaprio's performance as a "fully-realized, subtle and persuasive performance, hinting at more than Hoover ever revealed, perhaps even to himself", awarding the film three and a half stars (out of four). Todd McCarthy of The Hollywood Reporter gave the film a positive review, writing, "This surprising collaboration between director Clint Eastwood and Milk screenwriter Dustin Lance Black tackles its trickiest challenges with plausibility and good sense, while serving up a simmeringly caustic view of its controversial subject's behavior, public and private." David Denby in The New Yorker magazine also liked the film, calling it a "nuanced account" and calling "Eastwood's touch light and sure, his judgment sound, the moments of pathos held just long enough."
J. Hoberman of The Village Voice wrote that "Although hardly flawless, Eastwood's biopic is his richest, most ambitious movie since the Letters From Iwo Jima-Flags of Our Fathers duo, if not Unforgiven." Chris Pandolfi from Popzara lauded the film, calling it "a well-researched period drama, complete with accurate costumes, convincing sets, and appropriately nostalgic lighting and color schemes," also calling it "a superbly acted character study about a man once considered the second most powerful in America – although he could have easily been the first, considering the control he had over elected officials."
Peter Debruge of Variety gave the film a mixed review: "Any movie in which the longtime FBI honcho features as the central character must supply some insight into what made him tick, or suffer from the reality that the Bureau's exploits were far more interesting than the bureaucrat who ran it – a dilemma J. Edgar never rises above." David Edelstein of New York Magazine reacted negatively to the film and said that "It's too bad J. Edgar is so shapeless and turgid and ham-handed, so rich in bad lines and worse readings." He praised DiCaprio's performance: "There’s something appealingly straightforward about the way he physicalizes Hoover's inner struggle, the body always slightly out of sync with the mind that vigilantly monitors every move."
Box office[edit | edit source]
The film opened limited in 7 theaters on November 9, grossing $52,645, and released wide on November 11, grossing $11,217,324 on its opening weekend, approximating the $12 million figure projected by the Los Angeles Times for the film's opening weekend in the United States and Canada. J. Edgar went on to gross $79 million worldwide.
Accolades[edit | edit source]
|Date of ceremony||Award||Category||Recipient(s)||Result|
|January 27, 2012||Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Arts||Best Actor - International||Leonardo DiCaprio||Template:Nom|
|December 11, 2011||American Film Institute||Top 10 Films||J. Edgar|
|January 12, 2012||Broadcast Film Critics Association Awards||Best Actor||Leonardo DiCaprio||Template:Nom|
|January 15, 2012||Golden Globe Awards||Best Actor – Motion Picture Drama||Leonardo DiCaprio||Template:Nominated|
|December 1, 2011||National Board of Review Awards||Top Ten Films||J. Edgar|
|December 18, 2011||Satellite Awards||Best Actor – Motion Picture Drama||Leonardo DiCaprio||Template:Nom|
|January 29, 2012||Screen Actors Guild Awards||Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Leading Role||Leonardo DiCaprio||Template:Nominated|
|Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Supporting Role||Armie Hammer||Template:Nominated|
Historical accuracy[edit | edit source]
In an interview on All Things Considered, Yale history professor Beverly Gage, who is writing a biography of Hoover, stated that the film accurately conveys that Hoover came to the FBI as a reformer seeking "to clean it up, to professionalize it", and to introduce scientific methods to its investigation, eventually including such practices as finger-printing and blood-typing. She praises DiCaprio for conveying the tempo of Hoover's speech. However, she notes that the film's central narrative device, in which Hoover dictates his memoirs to FBI agents chosen as writers, is fictional: "He didn't ever have the sort of formal situation that you see in the movie where he was dictating a memoir to a series of young agents, and that that is the official record of the FBI." The historian Aaron J. Stockham of the Waterford School, whose dissertation was on the relationship of the FBI and the US Congress during the Hoover years, wrote on the History News Network of George Mason University, "J. Edgar portrays Hoover as the man who successfully integrated scientific processes into law enforcement investigations.... There is no doubt, from the historical record, that Hoover was instrumental in creating the FBI's scientific reputation." Stockham notes that Hoover probably did not write the FBI's notorious letter to Martin Luther King threatening to expose his sexual life, saying, "While such a letter was written, Hoover almost certainly delegated it to others within the Bureau."
Hoover's sexuality[edit | edit source]
The two historians differ on the accuracy of the film's portrayal of Hoover as homosexual and in love with his associate Clyde Tolson. Gage found it convincing, saying that while it is "fictionalized based on what we do know, which is that there was this very deep partnership... it doesn't take a huge leap of the imagination to look at two men who really didn't date women, who spent most of their lives together and imagine that they might have been in love with each other." Stockham, however, writes, "The problem with this portrayal, from a historical standpoint, is the complete lack of evidence about Hoover's sexuality"; he also criticizes the film for not covering "the FBI's sordid history investigating gays."
During the film's production, J. Edgar engendered speculation as to how Hoover and Tolson's rumored homosexuality would be portrayed on-screen. In an interview with The Wall Street Journal, Eastwood was asked if the script "addresses reports by former FBI employees that Hoover was a cross-dresser and perhaps a closeted homosexual." Eastwood seemed to indicate not, responding that he was drawn to the script because it "didn't quite go down that road."
To think that somehow you’re going to make a movie about somebody like J. Edgar and you’re not going to learn what’s in his heart, that’s just not going to happen in a script that I write.
Black suggested that the WSJ interviewer conflated homosexuality and transvestism and that Eastwood was only indicating that the film would not include cross-dressing.
The website Libertas Film Magazine published a script review of J. Edgar on July 8, 2011. The reviewer reported that Hoover's relationship with Clyde Tolson, who has long been rumored to have been Hoover's lover, is depicted in the screenplay as "chaste".
See also[edit | edit source]
- The Lindbergh Kidnapping Case – Emmy Award for Lead Actor
References[edit | edit source]
- Ford, Alan (2010-03-15). "Clint Eastwood to Direct J. Edgar Hoover Biopic". FilmoFilia.com. http://www.filmofilia.com/2010/03/15/clint-eastwood-to-direct-j-edgar-hoover-biopic. Retrieved 2010-12-26.
- Judge, Michael (2011-01-29). "A Hollywood Icon Lays Down the Law". WSJ.com. http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703293204576106080298279672.html. Retrieved 2011-02-18.
- Rosenberg, Adam (2010-06-18). "Leonardo DiCaprio To Star In J. Edgar Hoover Biopic". MTV.com. Retrieved 2010-12-26.
- Stiernberg, Bonnie (2010-12-13). "Armie Hammer Joins Clint Eastwood's J. Edgar Hoover Movie". PasteMagazine.com. Retrieved 2010-12-26.
- Fleming, Mike (2011-01-25). "Naomi Watts Joins 'J. Edgar' Cast". Deadline.com. Retrieved 2011-01-25.
- (2011-01-18). "Josh Lucas to play Charles Lindbergh in Clint Eastwood's 'J. Edgar'". PunchDrunkCritics.com. Retrieved 2011-01-21.
- (2011-01-07). "Armie Hammer Offers Details on Clint Eastwood’s J. EDGAR". Collider.com. Retrieved 2011-01-09.
- Rich, Katey (2010-12-23). "Damon Herriman Playing Lindbergh Baby Kidnapper In J. Edgar". Cinema Blend. Retrieved 2010-12-26.
- Fleming, Mike (2011-03-08). "Jeffrey Donovan Playing RFK in 'J. Edgar'". Deadline.com. Retrieved 2011-03-08.
- Schwartz, Terri (2011-01-11). "Ed Westwick In, Charlize Theron Out Of Clint Eastwood's 'J. Edgar'". MTV.com. Retrieved 2011-01-12.
- Kit, Borys (2011-01-24). "Actors union boss cast in Eastwood's FBI movie". Reuters. http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/01/25/us-edgar-idUSTRE70O0KY20110125. Retrieved 2011-03-12.
- Rich, Katey (2011-02-24). "Stephen Root Will Play A Wood Expert In Clint Eastwood's J. Edgar". Cinema Blend. http://www.cinemablend.com/new/Stephen-Root-Will-Play-A-Wood-Expert-In-Clint-Eastwood-s-J-Edgar-23344.html#. Retrieved 2011-03-12.
- "An Interview With Gunner Wright". The Gaming Liberty. 2011-04-23. http://thegamingliberty.com/index.php/2011/04/23/isaac-clarke-speaks-an-interview-with-gunner-wright. Retrieved 2011-07-19.
- "J. Edgar (2011)". Rotten Tomatoes. Flixster. http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/j_edgar. Retrieved November 10, 2011.
- "J. Edgar Reviews". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. http://www.metacritic.com/movie/j-edgar. Retrieved November 10, 2011.
- Ebert, Roger (2011-11-08). "J. Edgar". Chicago Sun-Times. http://www.rogerebert.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20111108/REVIEWS/111109973/-1/RSS. Retrieved 2011-11-09.
- McCarthy, Todd (2011-11-03). "J. Edgar: Film Review". The Hollywood Reporter. http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/review/j-edgar-film-review-257366. Retrieved 2011-11-07.
- Denby, David (2011-11-14). "The Man in Charge". The New Yorker. http://www.newyorker.com/arts/critics/cinema/2011/11/14/111114crci_cinema_denby#ixzz22iclZGkQ. Retrieved 2012-08-07.
- Hoberman, J.. "Great Man Theories: Clint Eastwood on J. Edgar". Village Voice. http://www.villagevoice.com/2011-11-09/film/great-man-theories-clint-eastwood-on-j-edgar. Retrieved 2011-11-09.
- Pandolfi, Chris (2011-11-10). "J. Edgar (2011) Review". Popzara.com. http://popzara.com/pages/2034. Retrieved 2011-11-10.
- Debruge, Peter (2011-11-04). "J. Edgar - Film Review". Variety. http://www.variety.com/review/VE1117946511?refcatid=31. Retrieved 2011-11-07.
- Edelstein, David. "First Word Problems". New York Magazine. http://nymag.com/movies/reviews/melancholia-2011-11. Retrieved 2011-11-08.
- "Daily Box Office Results for November 9, 2011". Box Office Mojo. IMDb. http://www.boxofficemojo.com/daily/chart/?sortdate=2011-11-09&track=jedgar.htm. Retrieved 2011-11-17.
- "Weekend Box Office Results for November 11–13, 2011". Box Office Mojo. IMDb. http://www.boxofficemojo.com/weekend/chart/?yr=2011&wknd=45&p=.htm. Retrieved 2011-11-17.
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- "AACTA - Winners and Nominees - 2011". Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Arts (AACTA). http://aacta.org/winners-nominees/2011.aspx. Retrieved 1 April 2012.
- "'Bridesmaids,' 'Tree of Life,' 'Hugo' in AFI's top 10 films of 2011". LATimes.com. December 11, 2011. http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/movies/2011/12/among-afis-10-movies-of-the-year-bridesmaids-hugo-descendants.html. Retrieved December 11, 2011.
- (2011-12-13). "2012 Critics’ Choice Movie Awards Noms: Hugo And The Artist Dominate The Field". TheFabLife.com. Retrieved 2011-12-13.
- "69th Annual Golden Globe Awards — Full List Of Nominees". HollywoodLife.com. Retrieved 2011-12-15.
- "National Board of Review Announces 2011 Awards; HUGO Takes Top Prize". WeAreMovieGeeks.com. Retrieved 2011-12-06.
- "From WAR HORSE to THE MYSTERIES OF LISBON: Satellite Award Nominations 2011". Alt Film Guide. Retrieved 2011-12-06.
- O'Connell, Sean (2011-12-14). "Screen Actors Guild nominations revealed". HollywoodNews.com. Retrieved 2011-12-14.
- "Fact-Checking Clint Eastwood's 'J. Edgar' Biopic". All Things Considered. 2011-12-08. http://www.npr.org/2011/12/28/144393904/fact-checking-eastwoods-j-edgar-biopic. Retrieved 2012-3-25.
- Stockham, Aaron J.. }date=2011-12-12 ""J. Edgar" Fails to Deliver the Historical Goods". http://hnn.us/articles/j-edgar-fails-deliver-historical-goods }date=2011-12-12. Retrieved 2012-3-25.
- Jensen, Michael. "Exclusive: Dustin Lance Black Says No De-Gaying of J.Edgar Hoover Movie". AfterElton.com. http://www.afterelton.com/people/2011/02/dustin-lance-black-says-no-degaying-hoover-biopic. Retrieved 2011-03-15.
- Apuzzo, Jason. "EXCLUSIVE: Libertas Reviews the Clint Eastwood-Leonardo DiCaprio J. Edgar Hoover Screenplay". Libertas Film Magazine. http://www.libertasfilmmagazine.com/exclusive-libertas-reviews-the-clint-eastwood-leonardo-dicaprio-j-edgar-hoover-screenplay. Retrieved 2011-07-18.
[edit | edit source]
- Official website
- J. Edgar at the Internet Movie Database
- Template:Allrovi movie
- Template:Mojo title
- Template:Metacritic film
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