I looked forward to seeing J. Edgar when I first heard about a biopic that would explore J. Edgar Hoover's alleged secret homosexuality and male partner. I avoiding seeing this movie in the theaters though after reading disappointing reviews. However, after recently hearing Dustin Lance Black's interview on Fresh Air again, I decided to watch it via Amazon.com.
Even after being warned from reviews that the aging make-up was poorly done, I was still surprised how distracting it was to see the amount of prosthetic stuff applied to the actors' faces as if they were playing Star Trek aliens. Worse, the movie's constant jumping back and forth with the younger and older versions, often framed scene-to-scene, only highlighted the poor quality of the make-up. The contrast with The Iron Lady's subtle make-up technique is profound. There's no way to fool an audience into not recognizing a familiar actor is behind the make-up, but J. Edgar decided more is more.
I'm not good at judging acting skills as I tend to go along with the actors' performances. I'm usually the last person to call-out bad acting. However, I do recognize how well Meryl Steep was able to completely recreate herself in nearly back-to-back characterizations of Julia Child and Margaret Thatcher whereas DiCaprio's Hoover depiction reminded me of his Howard Hughes depiction from seven years ago. Besides a slight change in accent, I don't recognize much difference between DiCarpio's old man Hoover depiction versus his old man Hughes.
I was surprised in the Fresh Air interview that Black understands that Director Clint Eastwood still doesn't know if Hoover was gay because the movie blatantly depicts Hoover having a romantic relationship with FBI associate director Clyde Tolson. However, sex was never portrayed in the movie. The speculation, which isn't quite clear in the movie, is that Hoover's and Tolson's relationship could have been sexless. Black speculates that Eastwood may not consider Hoover a homosexual if Hoover never acted sexually.
Overall, while the movie does cover Hoover's alleged sexuality and even throws in a sentimental cross-dressing scene, its depiction of Hoover was bit too sympathetic. Yes, Hoover's blackmail files and his vile conspiracy against Martin Luther King, Jr., are depicted, but it didn't really depict Hoover's self-serving hypocrisy. How can an alleged gay man also lead an agency that actively persecuted gays and lesbians? And why was Hoover's FBI so reluctant to take on organized crime?