Author Topic: Leonardo DiCaprio and Armie Hammer as lovers Hoover and Tolson in "J. Edgar"  (Read 22757 times)

Offline Aloysius J. Gleek

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http://movies.nytimes.com/2011/11/09/movies/j-edgar-starring-leonardo-dicaprio-review.html



Movie Review
J. Edgar (2011)


Finding the Humanity in the F.B.I.’s
Feared Enforcer

By MANOHLA DARGIS
Published: November 8, 2011



Leonardo DiCaprio, left, and Armie Hammer in "J. Edgar," directed by Clint Eastwood.


Even with all the surprises that have characterized Clint Eastwood’s twilight film years, with their crepuscular tales of good and evil, the tenderness of the love story in “J. Edgar” comes as a shock. Anchored by a forceful, vulnerable Leonardo DiCaprio, who lays bare J. Edgar Hoover’s humanity, despite the odds and an impasto of old-coot movie makeup, this latest jolt from Mr. Eastwood is a look back at a man divided and of the ties that bind private bodies with public politics and policies. With sympathy — for the individual, not his deeds — it portrays a 20th-century titan who, with secrets and bullets, a will to power and the self-promotional skills of a true star, built a citadel of information in which he burrowed deep.

To find the man hiding in plain sight, Mr. Eastwood, working from a smart script by Dustin Lance Black (“Milk”) , takes a dynamic approach to history (even as it speaks to contemporary times), primarily by toggling between Hoover’s early and later years, his personal and public lives, while the director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The film opens in the early 1960s with a shot of the Justice Department building, the original home of the bureau, establishing the location, as well as the idea that this is also the story of an institution. As Hoover croaks in the voice-over (“Communism is not a political party — it is a disease”), the scene shifts inside, where the camera scans the death mask he kept of John Dillinger, former Public Enemy No. 1, and then stops on Hoover’s pale face: a sagging facade.

Old, stooped, balding, his countenance as gray as his suit, Hoover enters while in the midst of dictating his memoirs to the first of several young agents (Ed Westwick) who appear intermittently, typing the version of history that he feeds them and that is dramatized in flashback. The earliest episode involves the 1919 bombing of the home of the attorney general, A. Mitchell Palmer (Geoff Pierson), a cataclysmic event that — accompanied by terrified screams and a wide-eyed Hoover rushing to the conflagration — signals the birth of an anti-radical. Hoover, a former librarian, subsequently helps deport hundreds of real and suspected extremists; hires his lifelong secretary, Helen Gandy (Naomi Watts); and begins amassing secret files on possible and improbable enemies that, like a cancer, grow.

Without rushing — a slow hand, Mr. Eastwood likes to take his time inside a scene — the film efficiently condenses history, packing Hoover’s nearly 50 years with the bureau into 2 hours 17 minutes. By 1924, Hoover was its deputy; a few years later in real time, seemingly minutes in movie time, he meets Clyde Tolson (Armie Hammer, the Winklevoss twins in “The Social Network”). Tall and impeccably groomed, Tolson is a golden boy who, here at least, physically recalls the 1920s tennis star Bill Tilden and quickly becomes Hoover’s deputy and constant, longtime companion. The men meet in a bar, introduced by a mutual acquaintance. Hoover blusters through the easygoing introductions, his eyes darting away from the friendly newcomer literally looming over him.

Later, Tolson applies for a job at the F.B.I. and is eagerly hired by Hoover, inaugurating a bond that became the subject of titters but that Mr. Eastwood conveys matter-of-factly, without either condescension or sentimentality. Before long Tolson is helping Hoover buy his suits and straightening his collar, and the two are dining, vacationing and policing in lock step. Tolson becomes the moon over Hoover’s shoulder, a source of light in the shadows. Even the ashcan colors and chiaroscuro lighting brighten. In these scenes Mr. Hammer gives Tolson a teasing smile and the naked face of a man in love. Mr. DiCaprio, by contrast, beautifully puts across the idea that the sexually inexperienced Hoover, while enlivened by the friendship, may not have initially grasped the meaning of its depth of feeling.

Mr. Eastwood does, and it’s his handling of Hoover and Tolson’s relationship that, as much as the late-act revelation of the pathological extent of Hoover’s dissembling, lifts the film from the usual biopic blahs. Mr. Eastwood doesn’t just shift between Hoover’s past and present, his intimate life and popular persona, he also puts them into dialectic play, showing repeatedly how each informed the other. In one stunning sequence he cuts between anonymous F.B.I. agents surreptitiously bugging a bedroom (that of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., a resonant, haunting presence seen and heard elliptically and on TV) and Tolson and Hoover walking and then standing alone side by side in an elevator in a tight, depthless, frontally centered shot that makes it look as if they were lying together in bed.

Although Hoover and Tolson’s closeness was habitual grist for the gossip mill, the lack of concrete evidence about their relationship means that the film effectively outs them. Certainly a case for outing Hoover, especially, can be made, both because he was a public figure who, to some, was a monster and destroyer of lives, and because he was a possibly gay man who hounded homosexuals (and banned them from the F.B.I.). But this film doesn’t drag Hoover from the closet for salacious kicks or political payback: it shows the tragic personal and political fallout of the closet. And Mr. Eastwood and Mr. Black’s expansive view of human frailties means that it’s Hoover’s relationship with Tolson — and the foreboding it stirs up in Hoover’s watchful mother (Judi Dench) — that greatly humanizes him.

That humanization is at the center of the film, which, as the very title announces, is less the story of Hoover, the public institution, than of J. Edgar, the private man. It would take a mini-series to name every one of his victims and enemies, a veritable Who’s Who of 20th-century notables, and a book as fat as Curt Gentry’s biography “J. Edgar Hoover” to communicate the sweep of the man’s power and impact on history. In crucial, representative scenes, the film instead offers quick sketches of the more familiar Hoover — the top cop and hunter of men (always ready for his close-up); the presidential courtier and exploiter; the wily Washington strategist and survivor — who decade after decade fended off threats real and imagined, and foes like Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy (Jeffrey Donovan).

The official take on Hoover, or rather on the F.B.I., his sepulchral home away from home, has been told before, including in Hoover-approved howlers like the studio flick “The F.B.I. Story” (1959). At once a fascinating psychological portrait and an act of Hollywood revisionism, “J. Edgar” doesn’t set out to fully right the record that Hoover distorted, at times with the help of studio executives (including those at Warner Brothers, which is also releasing this film). Instead, Mr. Eastwood explores the inner life of a lonely man whose fortress was also his stage. From there, surrounded by a few trusted souls, he played out a fiction in which he was as heroic as a James Cagney G-man (despite a life with a mother Norman Bates would recognize), but finally as weak, compromised and human as those whose lives he helped crush.

“J. Edgar” is rated R (Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian). Gun violence and language.
« Last Edit: November 08, 2011, 11:43:27 pm by Aloysius J. Gleek »
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Offline Aloysius J. Gleek

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[youtube=425,350]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=88P7tsyb0t0&feature=fvsr[/youtube]
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"Tu doives entendre je t'aime."
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Cowboy Curtis (Laurence Fishburne)
and Pee-wee in the 1990 episode
"Camping Out"

Offline Aloysius J. Gleek

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[youtube=425,350]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jPdHBeSCzFk&feature=related[/youtube]
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"Tu doives entendre je t'aime."
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Cowboy Curtis (Laurence Fishburne)
and Pee-wee in the 1990 episode
"Camping Out"

Offline Shakesthecoffecan

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I am going to see it Friday night. You Bet!
"It was only you in my life, and it will always be only you, Jack, I swear."

Offline Aloysius J. Gleek

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"Tu doives entendre je t'aime."
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Cowboy Curtis (Laurence Fishburne)
and Pee-wee in the 1990 episode
"Camping Out"

Offline delalluvia

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One review said there was some homoeroticism in it, but it was basically one-sided.

Offline Aloysius J. Gleek

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One review said there was some homoeroticism in it, but it was basically one-sided.




One-sided? Maybe...in the movie??



























"Tu doives entendre je t'aime."
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Cowboy Curtis (Laurence Fishburne)
and Pee-wee in the 1990 episode
"Camping Out"

Offline Aloysius J. Gleek

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"Tu doives entendre je t'aime."
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Cowboy Curtis (Laurence Fishburne)
and Pee-wee in the 1990 episode
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Offline Aloysius J. Gleek

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http://www.slate.com/articles/arts/movies/2011/11/j_edgar_reviewed_clint_eastwood_directs_leonardo_dicaprio_in_a_j_edgar_hoover_movie.html



J. Edgar
Part History Channel re-enactment,
part fascinating exploration of Hoover's sexuality.


By Dana Steven
Posted Wednesday, Nov. 9, 2011, at 5:36 PM ET



Leonardo DiCaprio as J. Edgar Hoover in J. Edgar


To a greater degree than any of Clint Eastwood’s films so far, J. Edgar (Warner Bros.), a sprawling biopic of FBI director J. Edgar Hoover, is a meditation about the passage of time, both in a nation and in a single human body. When the film (scripted by Dustin Lance Black, the Oscar-winning writer of Milk ) focuses on the slow decline of its complex half-hero, half-villain, the results are surprisingly perceptive and tender. But when (as for most of its running time) it tries to provide a sweeping overview of seven decades of American history, J. Edgar can feel generic and vague, like a soft-focus newsreel or a strung-together series of History Channel re-enactments.

At once epic and scattershot, J. Edgar  spans the period from 1919, when a 24-year-old Hoover (Leonardo DiCaprio) was made the head of the new intelligence division at what was then called the Bureau of Investigation, until 1972, when Hoover dies. Eastwood layers three or four different time frames in a series of nested flashbacks. The effect is less confusing than you might think—each stage of Hoover’s life is shot with a distinct look and feel, making them easy to tell apart. But this multiple-timeline structure sometimes seems arbitrary: Are we cutting back and forth between various old and young Hoovers because they mutually illuminate one another’s stories, or just so every incarnation will get equal screen time?

The life of a public official who served every president from Wilson through Nixon covers a lot of American history, from the left-wing anarchist bombings of 1919 (which Hoover made his name by squelching) through the kidnapping of the Lindbergh baby, the Red Scare, and the assassination of John F. Kennedy. J. Edgar  lingers longer on some of these events than others—the investigation of the Lindbergh case constitutes a significant plot thread, while the JFK assassination gets taken care of in a single phone call. Despite a regrettably heavy use of voice-over from DiCaprio to patch together these periods, the historical-survey aspect of J. Edgar  isn’t an unrelieved plod—moments of insight and wit are interwoven with the civics-class slideshow. In a wonderfully mordant dirty joke, Hoover receives the phone call about the JFK assassination while listening, in visible discomfort, to a surveillance tape of a woman having an orgasm.

By far the best thing in J. Edgar  is the film’s portrait of the relationship between Hoover and his longtime companion Clyde Tolson (Armie Hammer). Just what sort of companion Tolson was to Hoover has never been entirely clear, not only to Hoover’s contemporaries and biographers but, in this film’s vision, to Hoover and Tolson themselves. The two men never married, worked side by side at the FBI for decades, and were famous for never missing a meal together.

Black’s script imagines Clyde and Edgar’s love as a kind of open secret between the two men: They privately confess their devotion to one another, occasionally even hold hands discreetly in the back of a cab, but Clyde’s first (and perhaps only) attempt at a kiss gets him a punch in the jaw. Whatever set of tacit agreements this couple lives by, it’s a devil’s bargain, and the scenes in which the men try to negotiate the boundaries of their relationship are painfully and beautifully drawn. Armie Hammer—last seen in a kind of stunt performance as the Winklevoss twins in The Social Network —is divine as the dashing, slyly ambitious, but also deeply loyal Clyde. Unfortunately, in the old-age scenes Hammer is burdened with unconvincing-looking age makeup that makes him seem to be acting from inside a latex mask (which, I guess, he is, with some CGI assistance).

For some reason, DiCaprio’s age makeup works much better than Hammer’s. Witnessing the advancing decrepitude of Hoover’s body is not only convincing but, at times, harrowing. (As the hero’s jowls and paunch accumulate and his skin grows puffy and sallow, J. Edgar dips a toe into the body-horror genre.) In the film’s drier stretches (there are a lot of details about the Lindbergh trial), I found myself wondering about this discrepancy in age-makeup effectiveness between the two actors. Is it simply because DiCaprio, still baby-faced at 36, is that much closer to the grave than his 24-year-old co-star? Or are certain kinds of faces harder to artificially age than others?

Though I’ve never been a huge DiCaprio fan—he strikes me as one of those actors who works too hard, whose effort and dedication are too visible on the screen—I think he deserves credit for the perceived continuity between the young and old versions of Hoover. His exploration of his character’s physicality is detailed and complete, down to the walk, the gestures, the manner of tying a tie or holding a handkerchief. For me, DiCaprio’s performance never achieved true liftoff—I found myself imaging what an actor like Jeremy Renner might have done with the role—but his level of craft is impressive, and his portrait of Hoover both complex and affecting.

This biopic evinces a curious neutrality toward its subject, a God’s-eye-view that’s at once disapproving and gentle. There are long stretches of scenes in which the socially maladapted Hoover seems like a fragile and sympathetic figure (especially when he’s being alternately browbeaten and babied by his domineering mother, played by the glorious Judi Dench). The love story with Tolson also emphasizes Hoover’s vulnerability, as does his lifelong working relationship with his fanatically dedicated secretary Helen Gandy (Naomi Watts, note-perfect as always).

But when we see the political Hoover in action—conducting illegal surveillance, lying to biographers, even attempting to sabotage Martin Luther King 's acceptance of the Nobel Peace Prize—his nefarious motives seem somehow abstract. What does Clint Eastwood, a Republican who was once a politician himself, actually think about the man who ruled over the FBI, and meddled in civilian affairs, for most of the last century? Or is Eastwood trying to say that Hoover was intrinsically unknowable, a black hole of contradictions and competing impulses? Whether unintentionally or by design, the movie never really makes a case either for or against the troubled figure at its center. “He was a complex guy,” muses Eastwood in the press notes, as taciturn as the Man With No Name.
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Cowboy Curtis (Laurence Fishburne)
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Offline Aloysius J. Gleek

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http://www.newyorker.com/arts/critics/cinema/2011/11/14/111114crci_cinema_denby?currentPage=all



The Current Cinema
 The Man in Charge
 “J. Edgar.”
 
by David Denby
November 14, 2011



ILLUSTRATION: Thomas Ehretsmann


Clint Eastwood’s “J. Edgar” is, of all things, a portrait of a soul. The movie is a nuanced account of J. Edgar Hoover (Leonardo DiCaprio) as a sympathetic monster, a compound of intelligence, repression, and misery—a man whose inner turmoil, tamed and sharpened, irrupts in authoritarian fervor. Eastwood and the screenwriter Dustin Lance Black have re-created that period in the nineteen-twenties and thirties when a righteous young man with a stentorian style could electrify a nation. Outraged by scattered bomb plots and shifting values—what seems to him the moral chaos of modern life—Hoover senses that Americans need safety, or, at least, the illusion of safety, and he becomes the vessel of their protection, exercising and justifying, with ironclad rhetoric, his own dominance.

The movie has the structure of a conventional bio-pic. It begins in 1919, when the twenty-four-year-old Hoover, employed by the Justice Department to track “alien subversives,” shows up on his bicycle at the Washington house of his boss, Attorney General A. Mitchell Palmer, after it has been bombed by anarchists. The film traces Hoover’s rise from that shocking moment: his creation of the F.B.I., within the Justice Department; his corrupt and intimidating hold on the directorship; his successes, failures, and phobias; and his shaky last days. Yet “J. Edgar” is saved from the usual stiffness of the bio-pic form by the emotionally unsettled nature of its hero, a man vamped and controlled by his mother (Judi Dench), and afraid of his own sexuality, yet desperate for companionship. For decades, Hoover works at the Bureau with Clyde Tolson (Armie Hammer) and carries on a chaste love affair with him. The two natty gents go to clubs and the races together, and spend weekends chaffing, quarrelling, and pledging their affections. This Hoover is a tyrant, a liar, and a prig, but he is also, in his impacted way, capable of love.

“J. Edgar”—a collaboration with the activist gay screenwriter of “Milk””—represents another remarkable turn in Clint Eastwood’s career. Remarkable, but not altogether surprising. Eastwood long ago gave up celebrating men of violence: the mysterious, annihilating Westerners and the vigilantes who think that they alone know how to mete out justice. But Clean Edgar, working with an efficient state apparatus behind him, is a lot more dangerous than Dirty Harry. As the filmmakers tell it, the roots of Hoover’s manias lie in his nature. The movie bears a thematic resemblance to Bernardo Bertolucci’s “The Conformist” (1970), in which a repressed homosexual (Jean-Louis Trintignant) in the nineteen-thirties, longing for “normality,” joins the Italian Fascist Party and operates as an amoral bullyboy. “J. Edgar” is the story of how a similarly repressed personality might operate in a democracy. The answer is privately, by accumulating secrets and blackmailing anyone who is even remotely a threat to his standing; and publicly, by making himself and his outfit pop-culture icons and then bending the government to his whim. The frame for the movie is the Director, in old age, dictating the story of his career to a series of young men from the Bureau. Black and Eastwood use this plot device ironically: Hoover is an exceptionally unreliable narrator, and the way Eastwood stages the actual events suggests that Hoover is pumping up his own role and stretching the truth.
 
The dark-toned cinematography, by Tom Stern, is as redolent of the past as old leather and walnut. The images are heavily shadowed, with faces often seen half in darkness, a visual hint that these people do not know themselves very well. Hoover’s ethics and his style are traditionalist in tone but radical in application. He flourishes at a time when powerful men are perfectly groomed and dressed—and cloaked in secrecy. Fanatically dedicated to appearances, they are fooling themselves, perhaps, as much as others. In the movie’s portrait of pre-electronic America, Hoover pierces those appearances with wiretaps, bugs, and the lowly file card, an early database that, aided by his longtime secretary, Helen Gandy (Naomi Watts), he wields to devastating effect. Nonetheless, Hoover is fixated on his own image and on that of the Bureau. Outraged that the public is enjoying the panache of Jimmy Cagney as a gangster, in such early-thirties pictures as “The Public Enemy,” Hoover lends his name and his support to Hollywood films, and, by the middle of the decade, Cagney is firing a gun on behalf of the government.

Hoover may be treated semi-satirically, but neither Black nor Eastwood suggests that the dangers and the national weaknesses he combatted early in his career were illusory. In 1920, crime detection was primitive. Hoover insists that the country needs an armed national police force and modern forensic methods—a fingerprint bank, up-to-date labs, and the like. Bursting into rooms at the Justice Department, and shouting down objections, he orders equipment, space, and training, and holds everyone to account. His new scientific methods lead, in 1934, to the capture of Bruno Hauptmann, the kidnapper of the Lindbergh baby. The complicated story of the Bureau is dramatized in flashes, as an emanation of Hoover’s will. This technique is inadequate as history but almost inevitable in a movie. What interests Black and Eastwood more than institutional lore is what Hoover did with the power he accumulated.

Again and again, he goes too far, treating Communist rhetorical bluster as the first stages of revolution, assembling lists of people whose opinions he considers suspect, fabricating documents, planting stories in the newspapers, bludgeoning potential enemies with his file drawers of sexual gossip. A single scene with Robert F. Kennedy (Jeffrey Donovan)—in the early sixties, when, as Attorney General, he was Hoover’s boss—stands in for Hoover’s relations with the various Presidents who longed to be rid of him but didn’t dare show him the door. Hoover tells Kennedy that he has evidence of his brother’s sexual escapades with dubious women, and his job remains intact. His smarmy prurience becomes a factor in national policy. He and Tolson giggle over an intercepted letter to Eleanor Roosevelt from Lorena Hickok, the reporter who became Roosevelt’s close friend and, possibly, her lover. As an old man, he holes up in a room to listen to tape recordings of Martin Luther King, Jr., having sex with a woman in a hotel. Eastwood stages the sexual scene as shadows on a wall. Hoover’s immobile, fascinated face is the obscene element in the episode.

The film moves fast, but Eastwood’s touch is light and sure, his judgment sound, the moments of pathos held just long enough. And he cast the right star as his equivocal hero-fool. In the past, such beetle-browed heavyweights as Broderick Crawford, Ernest Borgnine, and Bob Hoskins have played Hoover. By using DiCaprio, and then aging him with prosthetic makeup, Eastwood lets us see how a slender, good-looking young man might thicken and coarsen with years and power. DiCaprio, extending his vowels into a Washington drawl (Hoover was a local boy), focusses energy in his bulldog forehead; the body, increasingly sausage-packed into tight-fitting suits as Hoover gets older, is immobile, unused, mere weight. DiCaprio never burlesques Hoover, but when he meets Armie Hammer’s Tolson in his office for the first time he breaks into a sweat. Hammer—tall, handsome, suave yet gentle, with a sweet smile—gives a charming, soft-shoe performance that, in a memorable scene, explodes into jealous rage.
 
Hoover was in power for almost fifty years, and the filmmakers leave out many particulars of his reign. Despite frequent references to Hoover’s loathing of Communism (which he convinces himself is poisoning the civil-rights movement), Eastwood and Black omit his active role in the rise of the Red-baiting pols Joseph McCarthy and Richard Nixon. The filmmakers concentrate on the Bureau’s successes in capturing or killing the tommy-gun bank robbers of the thirties but overlook Hoover’s odd, and possibly corrupt, unwillingness to take organized crime seriously, even as, in the forties and fifties, the Mafia was draining millions from the economy. Liberals will find much in the movie that condemns Hoover’s trampling of civil liberties, but may be dismayed by the insistence that an emerging national power needed a secret police force. Gay activists may be disappointed by the filmmakers’ restrained assumptions about Hoover’s sexuality, though the destructive effects of self-denial have rarely been dramatized in such withering detail. Hoover, we realize, is obsessed with keeping America safe because he feels unsafe himself. Internal subversion is a personal, not just a political, threat to him. No stranger man—not even Nixon—has ever been at the center of an American epic. ♦
"Tu doives entendre je t'aime."
(and you know who I am...)


Cowboy Curtis (Laurence Fishburne)
and Pee-wee in the 1990 episode
"Camping Out"