The love, life of J. Edgar Hoover

J. Edgar Hoover: Cross-dressing creep or lonely hero?

Leonardo Di Caprio stars as the controversial title character in J. Edgar.

Leonardo Di Caprio stars as the controversial title character in J. Edgar.

J. Edgar Hoover is one of the most iconic American figures of the last century, and a polarizing one: crime-fighting superpatriot or blackmailing bully? Cross-dressing creep or lonely hero? We get lots of each in J. Edgar, the epic biopic from Clint Eastwood (who, having played good bad guys and bad good guys, knows lots about moral ambiguity). Leonardo DiCaprio has the starring role, and thanks to loads of latex effectively embodies Hoover for the more than 40 years that he ran the FBI. On the trail of bomb-throwing “commie” anarchists in the ’20s and mobsters in the ’30s, Hoover sees America as perpetually under threat from dark and deadly forces. Decades later, and increasingly paranoid, he imagines Martin Luther King Jr. as just one more menace to the America he loves.

But the petty and vengeful bureaucrat who wiretapped his political enemies was the same man who defied the skeptics and pioneered the science of forensic analysis in the early ’30s — which proved indispensable in solving the notorious Lindbergh kidnapping. He was also a lion when it came to fighting Congress for better funding for the bureau (even if he had to lie in the process). Nothing if not complex, the fussy and morally uptight Hoover was also one of the loneliest men in America. Dominated by a homophobic mother (Judi Dench), the closeted Hoover had a decades-long affair of the heart with his deputy chief, Clyde Tolson (Armie Hammer, The Social Network). It is unclear if the relationship was ever consummated, but Edgar is a love story as much as anything, and that repressed romance is at the core of the film’s complex, time-shifting narrative.

DiCaprio, usually something of a boy-man, is brilliant and convincing here, as is Hammer. Naomi Watts is flawless as the woman who was his loyal secretary for four decades. And Dench is quietly terrifying as a lethal “mommie dearest.” Fascinating, well filmed, and surprisingly touching, Edgar brings a half-century of recent American history to life in the process of delivering a balanced portrait of a much-loathed and undeniably tragic figure. This is yet another excellent film from Eastwood. M

 

J. Edgar ★ ★ ★ ★

Directed by Clint Eastwood

Starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Judy Dench

R – 137 minutes

Continues at the Capitol & Westshore

 

 

Perfectly Potable

It’s time for a stiff drink, and what’s better than a martini? They always taste best at a classy bar like Veneto, Clive’s, or the Bengal, but handmade at home can also be great. Use a quality gin like Plymouth or Bombay Sapphire (or Victoria if you can afford it). And for an intriguing variation, leave the Vermouth in the cabinet and try a few drops of Ouzo instead. Bottoms up!

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Nanaimo author Haley Healey recently launched her second book, ‘Flourishing and Free: More Stories of Trailblazing Women of Vancouver Island.’ (Photo courtesy Kristin Wenberg)
Nanaimo author pens second book on ‘trailblazing’ Vancouver Island women

Haley Healey’s ‘Flourishing and Free’ follows her 2020 debut ‘On Their Own Terms’

Saanich author Hannalora Leavitt hopes her new book, This Disability Experience, helps to dispel the ‘otherness’ that often surrounds people with disabilities. (Jane Skrypnek/News Staff)
Vancouver Island author demystifying disability and dismantling otherness

Hannalora Leavitt, who lives with a visual impairment, wants to change how people look at disability

Michael Demers, performing here as a member of The Lonely, died May 1 after a year-long battle with leukemia. (Photo by Benji Duke)
Victoria music community mourning Michael Demers

Veteran singer-songwriter, co-founder of The Lonely dies at 63 due to leukemia

The Royal B.C. Museum has added a tamba dining set, used by a Punjabi man on his voyage to Canada in 1927, to its ‘100 Objects of Interest’ online collection. (Courtesy of Royal B.C. Museum)
Punjabi dining set added to Royal B.C. Museum’s ‘100 Objects of Interest’ collection

Set used by Indar Singh Gill on his voyage from Punjab to Canada in 1927

Victoria-born musician Bryce Dane Soderberg took to Instagram Monday to call out the Greater Victoria School District on its proposed cuts to elementary and middle school music programs. (Bryce Dane Soderberg/Instagram)
Victoria-born Lifehouse vocalist calls out SD61 on proposed music cuts

‘It will be a big loss to future generations’ Bryce Dane Soderberg posted to his Instagram

Musqueam and Qualicum First Nations artist, Mathew Andreatta, next to several of his ongoing projects, including carvings and illustrations. (Submitted photo)
Island artist considers art a means to reconnect with his Indigenous identity

Andreatta thought of TOSH as a space of learning and creation

Nicolle Nattrass and Michael Armstrong are presenting an online reading on May 9. (Photos courtesy Joni Marcolin/Heather Armstrong)
Nanaimo playwrights present online Mother’s Day script readings

Nicolle Nattrass and Michael Armstrong to read from in-progress plays

Marianne Turley is one of this year’s City of Nanaimo Culture and Heritage Award winners for Honour in Culture. (Bulletin file photo)
Longtime Vancouver Island Symphony board member gets posthumous culture award

Marianne Turley receives City of Nanaimo Culture and Heritage Award for Honour in Culture

The CVAC Fine Arts Show is always something to see and 2021 promises to be no different, as they adopt a fully multimedia approach. (File photo)
Cowichan Valley Fine Arts Show goes multimedia for 2021

The show, which runs from May 1-22 will be available both in person and online.

Dinner After a Death, a painting by Sooke artist Bryan Cathcart is part of a collection featuring his work at the Outsiders and Others Gallery in Vancouver. (Contributed - Bryan Cathcart)
Sooke artist finds creativity by expanding artistic horizons

Bryan Cathcart, 26, featured at Vancouver gallery

Viking-inspired fantasy writer Joshua Gillingham of Nanaimo and Seattle-based Islamic science fiction editor Muhammad Aurangzeb Ahmad are co-editing ‘Althingi – The Crescent and the Northern Star.’ (Photos submitted, illustration by Lada Shustova/Figue)
Nanaimo author co-editing historical anthology connecting Vikings and Muslims

Joshua Gilligham presents ‘Althingi – The Crescent and the Northern Star’

Saltair-based writer, Krista May. (Janet Kelly photo)
Island writers make long-list for 2021 CBC Short Story Prize

Krista May and Angie Ellis among 33 finalists selected out of over 3,000 entrants

Most Read