Movie review: J. Edgar

Brad Keefe, Columbus Alive

It's a tough thing to tell the story of a life in two hours, even if it was a simple one - if such a thing exists.

The life of J. Edgar Hoover was by no means simple. The challenge of portraying it on film has been tackled by two filmmakers not afraid of risks - Clint Eastwood and Leonardo DiCaprio. The results are mixed.

"J. Edgar" spans decades in the life of the man who spearheaded the founding of the FBI in his 20s and remained its director until his death at 77.

Hoover (DiCaprio) is depicted as an ambitious and driven young man who becomes the secretive, power-obsessed old man we all know and, uh, love?

Eastwood works from a script by Dustin Lance Black, who wrote the more focused and more successful biopic "Milk." He may have bitten off too much here.

The film tries to touch on too many facets of a deeply multi-faceted man: driven, protective of his nation, but also paranoid and obsessive.

Most notably, the film takes the persistent rumor that Hoover was gay and runs with it. The subplot of a repressed love for his deputy director, Clyde Tolson (Armie Hammer), is central to the film.

DiCaprio's performance - often under layers of prosthetics - will likely be awards bait, and deservedly, though the baby-faced actor can be a distraction. However, "J. Edgar" as a film is often as hazy as the life story it depicts.

"J. Edgar"

Opens Friday

2 1/2 stars out of 4