J. Edgar – A Bio(E)pic


We all have been audience to the legend that CID has been in our television years. Religiously, all of us have been followers of the blessed team of ACP Pradyuman, Senior Inspector Daya, Senior Inspector Abhijeet, Inspector Fredricks and Dr Salunkhe among others. Much to my disappointment, we have forgotten the alpha detective Byomkesh Bakshi and ah well, even Sam D’Silva and Gopichand from Tehkikaat for that matter.
I know it’s an extremely poor analogy; the comparison of the legendary and posthumous J.Edgar, director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation with a bunch of sleuths (much apology to the serious devotees of CID). But one has to draw a frivolous contrast like that in order to explain J. Edgar, a movie directed by Clint Eastwood who has collected critical acclaim with films like Mystic River and  Changeling to name a few.
Eastwood is a story-teller, an illustrator of historical figures, an actor who’s looked impressive as a swaggering cowboy as much as when he adorns the director’s hat, like in the past few years. Quite easily, he’s brought the good, the bad and the ugly to cinema lovers.
J. Edgar is a 2011 film showcasing the public and private life and likes of the protagonist J. Edgar Hoover, the first director at the FBI who reined its office from 1935-1972. Played by our very lover boy turned experimental artist Leonardo Di Caprio, Eastwood tells the almost colourful tale of Hoover who laid down the foundation of the now ‘infamous’ government organisation whose utmost agenda is/was the welfare of the American people.
Hoover saw Roosevelt, Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson and Nixon treading the route up and down the White House. The man was not only successful in designating FBI with an honorable title, but also gifted them a centralised fingerprint file and forensic laboratory.
Di Caprio, yet again, displayed his greatest abilities as a character actor giving Hoover a face to reckon with in the present era. He, unarguably, deserves to be identified as a smooth operating conman who has pulsated  veracity to  Howard Hughes in Aviator, Frank Abagnale Jr. in Catch Me If You Can and might do so to Frank Sinatra in the much-rumored under-production Sinatra.
Kudos to Naomi Watts for portraying the role of a deglamorised Ms. Helen Gandy, playing secretary to Hoover in the movie. Her classic beauty and timelessness comes handy while making biographical dramas like these.  An epic performance by Armie Hammer who plays Clyde Tolson, the contentious love-interest and protégé of Hoover.  Not to forget Hoover’s influential mother, played by Judi Dench who crisply scoffs during one of his disclosures of being a homosexual to his mother saying — “I’d rather have a dead son than a daffodil”.
The transformation from a younger, sophisticated Hoover to his older cocky, sullen version has been explicably done. Although the film does at times replicate an episode from the biography documentaries on the History Channel, it quickly comes back to tell the tales of murder mysteries handled and solved by Hoover at that time. It also spices it up with some romance between Hoover and his lover.
Another interesting thing to note is how the characters address each other depending upon the nature of the conversation. Hoover calling Ms. Gandy ‘Helen’ and Mr. Tolson ‘Clyde’ while sharing confidential/private information. Little details add to a whole lot of amusement.
Despite the tardiness in its progression, the film recuperates interest and audience attention. Watch it for its performances and the magic of Clint Eastwood. It always makes you wonder and promises  to deliver ‘horse’ power.
Written by Shubhra Rishi.
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