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I saw J. Edgar last weekend and loved it. I think the only people who won't like it are those whose opinions about the man are so fixed, they are unwilling to celebrate his ambiguity. I think J. Edgar works mostly because Eastwood recognized Hoover's delicious ambiguity. There is much to admire about Hoover's career, particularly the early years, but much to detest, too, a dichotomy from which Eastwood does not shrink.
Eastwood's film reminded me of William Manchester's magisterial biography of Douglas MacArthur, American Caesar. It was clear to me at least that Manchester could not make up his mind about MacArthur, a conclusion Manchester confirmed when I had an opportunity to discuss his book with him after a banquet at which he spoke. I got the same impression about Eastwood when seeing his movie. Note that Eastwood's screenwriter, Dustin Lance Black is gay, he wrote the Milk screenplay, too, and won an Oscar for it.
I thought the film did an excellent job of suggesting Hoover's probable sexual preferences but did so in a way that honored the ambiguous nature of those preferences. I also liked the evenhanded way the film described both Hoover's brilliance, organizational ability, and political skill, while not shying away from making clear what a bully, publicity hound, and frequent trampler of civil rights he was. Like MacArthur, I believe Hoover's tragedy was that he lived too long.
J. Edgar's 137 minute runtime passed in the blinking of an eye. It is a fascinating a character study of a man who most would agree was one of the most important figures in American 20th Century history, although most would probably not be able to agree about what to make of him. 9 Stars out of 10
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