It’s very rare that a movie’s brilliance is overshadowed for me by its way too sympathetic portrayal of the main character.
But as I watched Clint Eastwood’s very good new biopic about longtime FBI director J. Edgar Hoover called “J. Edgar,” I just couldn’t get past this: Hoover was a very bad, very dangerous, evil man, and in this movie he comes off WAY too benignly for my taste. For much of the film, we see Leonardo DiCaprio’s Hoover as a paranoid, power-hungry opportunist who takes credit for things he doesn’t do, bullies dozens of people, and generally acts like a jackass.
But quite a bit of the film shows Hoover’s longtime romance with fellow FBI agent Clyde Tolson (played wonderfully by Armie Hammer; seriously, both he and Leo should get Oscar nominations), and actually makes Edgar seem kind and gentle.
I know Eastwood’s a great filmmaker, and of course his politics can be whatever they want. But I sat in the theater silently steaming at what I thought as kind of a “pass” given to Hoover by ole’ Dirty Harry himself. Hoover spied on the Kennedys and MLK, helped Joe McCarthy ruin thousands of lives during the Red Scare of the early 1950s, and was generally an enormous blowhard. And I didn’t think we saw enough of that here.
Still, it was a really good movie. The action moved along well, the script was terrific, and like I said, DiCaprio and Hammer were both really solid. There are some beautiful moments between Hoover and his longtime secretary (played by Naomi Watts), and the makeup on DiCaprio as he aged was superb.
Still … J. Edgar Hoover was a small, awful man, and I hate seeing him glamorized on screen. I shouldn’t have let it bother me, but it did.
**A quick NYC pizza thought: There are 5,000 good New York pizza places in the five boroughs. Literally on almost every corner, you find a good joint to grab a slice.
And yet all over Manhattan Sunday I noticed a ton of Pizza Hut and Papa John’s signs. My question is this: With 5,000 really good pizza places around, who exactly is ordering chain pizza here? I mean, even a so-so NYC pizza shop is way better than chain pizza.
I just wonder how the heck they stay in business. On a related note, I ate at a Vietnamese restaurant for the first time Sunday night. Darn good eats.
**Finally, I didn’t watch much football Sunday so my thoughts are spare.
– Terrible loss to the Eagles by the Giants. Really, you couldn’t beat Vince Young at home?
– I am so looking forward to Lions-Packers on Thanksgiving. Detroit put up 49 Sunday, and we know the Packers’ defense is poor (despite them being 10-0). Should be a great game.
– Ray Rice: He’s good. Phillip Rivers? Not so much.
– Finally, I’ll leave it to the 6-year-old Jets fan to sum up how all of us in Gang Green nation are feeling today. I feel so bad for that kid; escape now while you have a chance!