The problem with Edgar is surprisingly not Leonardo DiCaprio. He’s actually very good as the FBI founder and chief. Though if J.Edgar was alive he’s be very flattered to see they’d chosen a pretty boy to play him, as the man had ‘a face like a bulldog chewing a wasp’, as we say in my homeland.
The issue I have with this generally engaging and serviceable film is that this story would be better told as a mini-series. There’s simply too much packed into a 2 and a bit hours and too much left out. Hoover was a fascinating and complex character but because we’re always lurching from one epoch to another we never get a chance to delve into the inner recesses of his mind. I was grateful to know that in his youth anarchists had attempted to blow up his boss. This helped explain his fierce anti-communism but I would have liked to have seen a whole film devoted to this because it’s new to me, as I’m sure it is to many in the audience.
Similarly the battle with gangsters and invention of the G-men was another topic to make a 2 hour film on, albeit one that I have kind of seen before in one guise or another.
The same could be said of his battle with the Kennedy’s and his relationship with Clyde Tollson. I’m not sure what the solution is, possibly to make a film called ‘Young Edgar’ about his early days battling radicals. Or a film about the ‘Last Days of Edgar’ when Nixon came to power.
It reminds me of why a film like Frost /Nixon works better than Stone’s ‘Nixon’ biopic with Hopkins. One attempts to tell the life of a man, the other an episode in his life.