Wednesday, November 23, 2011

A Complicated Life

I haven't commented on movies as often as I could, but watching J. Edgar last weekend moved me to rectify that. Whatever else you may think of the movie (and the man in question), it's one that sticks in your mind for a while afterward.

Whatever else the filmmakers got right or wrong about Hoover, who's simultaneously one of the most significant and most controversial figures of 20th century American history, they did us the service of offering a nuanced take on his life. While he doesn't deserve the pedestal that some conservatives have placed him on, in my opinion, neither was he the slavering demon that the left often casts him as. As with most things in this life, the truth lies somewhere in between.

Social conservatives no doubt hate the movie for running with the longstanding rumor that Hoover and his right-hand man, Clyde Tolson, were closeted gay men and something more than friends. On the other end, there may be some who think their relationship as portrayed in the movie was unrealistically chaste. I personally found it very believable, knowing from my own experience what it's like to be that deeply repressed, and also far more powerful than simply giving them a secret sex life.

Does J. Edgar deserve an Oscar? I'm not enough of a film connoisseur to offer a convincing argument either way. But the movie kept me engaged for two and a half hours, which has got to count for something.

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