J. Edgar impressions

Seen: 11-24-11

Ah, it’s been a while since I’d seen movie in theaters.  Here is my first movie “impression!”  Beware, spoilers abound!!!

I don’t know much about history, much less about J. Edgar Hoover, the man who is the founder of the FBI.  I had to ask my sister about it and, needless to say, I learned quite a bit during the movie.  Note that everything mentioned here refers to Clint Eastwood’s J. Edgar movie interpretation rather than real life.  There are plenty of rumors that the movie was based on, but … well, 60-70 years have passed.  I don’t think we’ll ever know the truth behind the speculation.

I think what I noticed most was the characterizations of the characters.  Hoover was not a nice character.  He was paranoid and a harsh person.  He avoided human relationships because he was essentially married to his work.  There were only three exceptions to this, and each of them very dynamic.  I liked how the man was not portrayed as a great person but instead as a very flawed one (I later read that his reign in the FBI until his death was very controversial, so I suppose this isn’t so much artistic license as it is an interpretation).  He was highly prejudiced and driven.  This isn’t even getting into his sexual orientation problems and his denial of them.

His relationship with his mother could be described as almost worshipful.  He listens to her every word and he feels she’s the only unconditional ally he has.  She, in turn, is very ambitious with him and expected great things of him ever since he was a child.  She also has a habit of molding him to what she wants, so, to quote, “I’d rather have a dead song, than a [gay one].”  (Sounds like an Asian parent!!)  Her death tore his world apart, but I don’t think in their relationship, he was ever an “equal” despite how he shared everything with her.

His relationship with his secretary, Helen Gandy, can best be defined by the lack of one.  He certainly trusts her (and only her?!) and is practically the only female whom he can seem to tolerate for long periods of time, but he is definitely not interested in pursuing her.  It’s almost a friend/confidante/employer-employee mixture of a relationship.   She was the only one he trusted with his confidential files.

Aaaand then there’s Clyde Tolson, who is his best friend, brother figure, and potential love interest (made difficult by the fact that he denies that he’s gay).  Tolson has no such compunction and during a very intense confession-slash-rejection scene, they decide to stay together but I think there was still a wall between them.  Tolson was Hoover’s second man, but had none of the qualifications, which was some of the basis for the many rumors surrounding the two in real life.  They ate together, went out together, vacationed together, etc.  Tolson was probably the only person who ended up confronting Hoover about his lack of moral character, and he’s the one who first sees Hoover’s dead body after his death (not counting the maid).

Another point of interest is how multiple events in the movie were shown from Hoover’s point of view, but the actual events were different.  Once, the event was shown during the course of the movie and later, it is shown at the end.  They were different, and I thought it was an interesting “twist.”  It’s interesting because I remember thinking, “Wow, that’s weird,” when I was watching those scenes because there was something weird about them.  I had written it off as Hoover’s lack of experience in the field, but … well, this movie was half Hoover recounting to typists his autobiography, so…  He’d twisted the truth.

I was amazed at the depth of the characterizations and the relationships in this movie, and I really do hope I can write something like this … as subtle yet as powerful as this someday.  I think I’m going to buy the DVD for this once it comes out, if only for reference.

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