Movies

Reason Writers at the Movies: Peter Suderman Reviews J. Edgar

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Associate Editor Peter Suderman reviews Clint Eastwood's J. Edgar Hoover biopic J. Edgar in today's Washington Times

Spoiler alert: J. Edgar Hoover was gay—maybe.

The history is complicated and subject to dispute, and the truth about the founder and longtime director of the FBI may never be known. But "J. Edgar," Clint Eastwood's new biopic about Hoover, makes its feelings about the famous federal enforcer plenty clear: Despite his reputation as an enforcer of conventional moral norms, the man was probably a homosexual, although he may have never admitted it—even to himself.

Mr. Eastwood's take on Hoover, played by Leonardo DiCaprio, is characteristically humanizing, and impressively balanced given how polarizing his subject can be. Mr. Eastwood doesn't cast judgment on his subject, but he does provide plenty of fodder for anyone who'd like to bang the gavel himself. The problem is that Mr. Eastwood's unwillingness to cast judgment, while commendable, also manifests itself as a sort of shapelessness, devoid of any larger, nuanced argument about the man. All Mr. Eastwood really has is a single, simple idea: thatHoover's self-repression might have driven his never-ending inquests into the personal lives of others.

Whole thing here