What went on behind closed doors? Clint doesn’t know, and at 81, he doesn’t have time to develop a point of view about his movies. In this century, Eastwood has directed eleven movies—three more than the Coen Brothers, who are hardworking, a generation younger, and there are two of them.
Clint seems to feel that Hoover bugging and blackmailing presidents was, on the whole, not a good thing. But with so many of his Hollywood colleagues hiring private eye Anthony Pellicano to wiretap their enemies, Clint seems in less of a hurry to throw the first stone (and in more of a hurry to deliver another adequate movie before he dies).
Clint delegates most of J. Edgar‘s messaging to gay activist screenwriter Dustin Lance Black. He won a zeitgeisty Oscar in 2009 for his fair-to-middling script for Milk, the biopic of the gay San Francisco politician Harvey Milk, who liberated Castro Street (making it Ground Zero of the AIDS epidemic, but who remembers such off-message trivia?).
The gay activist screenwriter sees J. Edgar as tragedy. Hence we are given large helpings of two straight young actors doddering around as elderly queens under pounds of makeup. Eastwood appears to have blown most of his cosmetics budget on trying to age DiCaprio realistically while relegating poor Hammer to a Halloween-store mask. Yet all those latex prosthetics on DiCaprio and Hammer are the only chemistry between them.
J. Edgar is a dull tragedy, but it could have been a lively comedy if it had been subversively envisioned South Park-style as yet another Big Gay Conservative Fiasco. Notably, J. Edgar leaves out Hoover’s secret working relationship with the brains behind Senator Joe McCarthy—Roy Cohn, the lisping homosexual staffer to whom Hoover illegally fed FBI wiretaps.
McCarthyism collapsed into farce when Cohn took a shine to handsome G. David Schine, his own Tolson-like aide. After Schine was drafted, the lovelorn Cohn tried to blackmail the Army into stationing his innamorato near him. During the televised Army-McCarthy Hearings, McCarthy blundered into enabling Army lawyer Joseph Welch to introduce the word “fairy” into the record.
For Schine, however, the McCarthy shambles ended not as gay tragedy but as straight comedy. He moved to Hollywood, served as executive producer of The French Connection, and had six kids with his new wife, the Swedish Miss Universe.
Now that would be a more entertaining period piece than J. Edgar.
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