Film Review: J. EDGAR

Directed by Clint Eastwood
Written by Dustin Lance Black
Starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Armie Hammer, Naomi Watts, Josh Lucas, Judi Dench

Plot: This, of course, is the story of J. Edgar Hoover, the man who headed the F.B.I from 1924 to 1972.

For me, the movie’s most egregious crime was its focus. It focused basically on two facets of his life: how Hoover came to have such complete control over the FBI and how his odd personality affected the way in which he ran the agency.

The first issue played out with a comprehensive retelling of the Lindberg baby kidnapping, perhaps the most familiar case of the 20th century and one that did not require so much time spent on it. The second area of interest was demonstrated in a myriad of scenes with his partner, Clyde Tolson (Hammer). Scene after scene details their odd relationship without ever really coming to terms with it.

Also if you are going to spend half the movie on someone’s old age, why not hire someone older to play that part? Arnie Hammer, in particular, looked like a monster, whose face is melting for half the movie. Anyone who sees this film will never go outside without sun block again.

Things I would liked to have known about Hoover got short shrift. Why wasn’t he more interested in putting an end to organized crime? Isn’t this the exact period when organized crime got their foothold in the U.S. From this movie, you’d believe that he had very little interest in crime and only chased down major criminals when he was forced to. I would have liked more, or at least some, time spent on the ways in which the massive documents he accumulated on public figures came into play? Did he call and threaten them if his funding was cut? Was he basically a voyeur or did he use what he had?

I’d like to know why he especially hated Martin Luther King, Jr. Why did his secretary (Watts) see a career with him as worth pursuing? She indicated ambition, but did shredding his documents after his death provide it.

Eastwood likes physically dark movies, I think. This one mostly plays out in his offices, home and in dark restaurants. Why? How did he get all the sun spots if he never went outside?

A major disappointment.

Patti Abbott writes crime fiction short stories. She hosts a look at Forgotten Books every Friday with readers, writers and reviewers at She hopes you’ll join in