The name of J. Edgar Hoover not only marks half of century of the history of defending the law and making justice in the United States, but still raises passions until today. The developments after the terror attacks on 9/11 have brought back to the front stage of the public debate the balance between rights of the the citizens to be protected and the rights to privacy and freedom of expression, and about the role of the federal government and its agencies in protecting freedom for the many while respecting the rights of the few. ‘J.Edgar’ the movie clearly belongs to the genre of the biographical documentary, and according to your beliefs you may get out of this film liking or hating it. There is one thing that is hard to deny in my opinion – this film has passion too, same as the character it describes. One may admire J.Edgar for his dedication to the ideals of making out of America a country of law and order according to his own vision or for building out of nothing one of the best government agencies in the US and the world, or one may hate him because of his obsessional search for a no. 1 enemy, or for the methods he put in the service of the cause.  One cannot deny reading the biography or watching this film that he was a man of passion.

 

source http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1616195/

source http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1616195/

 

There are things that I loved and things that I hated in the way this film was written (by ) and directed by . The parallel running of the auto-biography of the character as dictated 40 years later to a young colleague is smartly run in parallel with the ‘present’ of his late age career at the time of the Kennedy, Johnson and Nixon administrations. One character is already old, the other ages and the story advances. I should actually say one triplet of character, as the extraordinary  (whom I do not like, but I cannot prevent myself to admire) is very well supported by  as the never consumed lover who turns into the eternal secretary of Hoover and  as the eternal friends who also figures up – as rumored by history – as potential lover. All are supported by a  as Hoover’s pious mother, as splendid as you expect. What I liked less is the ex-screen off-screen story telling, hard to digest even under the pretext of Hoover dictating his memoirs at the sunset of his life, or the schematic sound of some of the dialogs – even bad guys seldom speak on cliches as some of the characters here do. Overall the excellent acting and the well kept pace overwhelm the dark sides of the production.

 

(video source Clevver Movies)

 

At the end of the day we get another story big as a cinemascope screen of an American hero. Or anti-hero. Depending of course on your beliefs and on the way you relate to the character and the different threads of the story.   Hoover appears as a historic character who had to be obsessed with a Public Enemy no. 1 be they real or imaginary. In parallel he lived his personal drama of (historically alleged) homosexuality, the dark secret of the blackmailer who could so easily be blackmailed. One cannot deny that he built a fabulous crime fighting institution which definitely remains his principal legacy. However, Hoover was also for almost half a century a Gatekeeper, even one who loved to present himself as a popular hero, in comics or movies. Here is a very different kind of movie about him. One which leads the viewer at the end to ask the question of what was The Gatekeeper defending his country against.