i have been mulling over what i might write about the film j. edgar. i saw it on sunday afternoon and was fairly gobsmacked for some reason. it has taken a day or so for me to ascertain what that might be about. the film is like a mountain stream in late august. it flows gently from here to there and back again. there are no visible rapids and what surprises exist are due more to the invisible depths than what is evident to the eye. that makes sense because john edgar hoover was much more than met the eye. he lived a dual-storyline his entire career. eastwood seems to mirror this with the tale that he spins rolling back and forth between the decades and the insanity( or do i mean drive?)that became hoover at the last years of his life. leonardo is sublimely eloquent. his expression of this historic character is loving and studied, directing me to both understand and empathize with j edgar’s duality. as he dons the makeup that is the elder g i man, it is seamlessly natural to forget who is the actor. perhaps i gush a little too much here, but i honestly can’t remember a performance that took my breath away quite like dicaprio’s hoover. it was really like my first slice of rhubarb pie- both sweet and tangy with both of those seeming dominant.
what is there to say about armie hammer. he again has cashed in on his blue blood demeanor to present a 1920’s poof, who only needs a green carnation to complete the stereotype. the tension between the two actors seems real, as does the overly cautious and entangled relationship that they boarded to ride together as j edgar shaped a federal bureau of investigation for america. typically i don’t like blondes, but somehow he stirs something in me that finds his silver spoon aesthetic not only endearing but attractive.
and when these two characters reach a tipping point in their relationship, i was achingly reminded what it was like to be closeted. there is such a struggle between fear and desire. i don’t know how true to history this story is. i should care, but frankly i don’t. i do understand that here is another tortured gay couple’s story being played out on the big screen as directed by a heterosexual man. to pretend that lgbt love was without strife seems ignorant. to pretend that our predecessors were flawless is childlike and denialist. gay lives were taut and tenuous most of the time. clint’s position is one of not assuming too much. he believes they loved each other. he believes they feared detection. he implies others knew about them. he insists the viewers find empathy or not. he insists we think about it.
i wish there were more gay directors who could be as deft with telling our stories as mr. eastwood and mr. lee. lgbt culture is indebted to these men. they respect without much embellishment. and they let viewers make their own opinions. i felt pride in seeing gay men love- even if it wasn’t wholesome, because i know we love. and i know we have tasted tragedy. i also know we have lost and we have won. both sides of this truth are evident in this storytelling. it gently rolls to and fro and a love seems to whisper in the breeze
as a post script- judy dench again shines here. she is understated, yet supports much of the first hour of the film. her most powerful line for me- “no son of mine will be a daffodil” embodies the stigma the stigma that homosexuals endured for the 1st 3/4 of the 20th century.