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Screen » Film

The Man Behind the FBI: Leonardo DiCaprio transcends time and physique to become J. Edgar

J. Edgar chronicles the controversial life of the former FBI director.

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Despite always earning A's in my history classes, I usually avoid historically set programming when it comes to my entertainment consumption. I'm just not into it, which is probably why I fell asleep toward the end of The Kings Speech. I do make the exception for American history and well-made biopics.

Leonardo DiCaprio has played a large number of interesting characters and has, without a doubt, some of the best acting chops of any actor in Hollywood. While he has been known to play a pretty boy or two, he truly absorbed the role of John Edgar Hoover in a phenomenal way. Beneath the layers of latex, which he donned to play Hoover in his 70s, DiCaprio transcended time and physical appearance to become the hard-assed director of the FBI. The skill and talent were all DiCaprio, but beneath the makeup and behind the glasses he became nearly unrecognizable as anyone other than J. Edgar Hoover.


What I did vaguely know about Hoover before watching the film was that he had been known to dress in women's clothing. It seems in our culture that those are the things that stick around in the psyche of social knowledge, but this film merely touches on the fact in a brief and tasteful way, therefore not allowing it to take away from the story at large. The writing and direction in this film (screenplay by Milk's Dustin Lance Black and direction from the one and only Clint Eastwood) work together brilliantly to portray the subtlety in Hoover's relationship with his right-hand man and constant companion, Clyde Tolson (The Social Network's Armie Hammer).

Where the film hits a snag comes in the constant back-and-forth flipping from one era to the next. As Hoover dictates his memoir to a number of different agents, time jumps in a nonlinear way from the late '60s to the '20s and '30s in order to uncover some of the mystery of who exactly is J. Edgar Hoover. The pacing fluxes a bit too much during the constant time hoping, but overall the film draws you in and keeps you interested.

Whether you're a total history buff, someone who lived through a portion of Hoover's reign as director of the FBI, or, like me, you appreciate a good story with interesting characters, it's hard to look away from the talent and historical intrigue
of J. Edgar.

4 Stars

Starring Leonardo DiCaprio,
Armie Hammer, Judy Dench

Directed by Clint Eastwood

Rated R

About The Author

Anne Pick

Music Writer | The Source Weekly

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