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ON FAITH & MEDIA View Comments

J. Edgar

By
Sr. Rose Pacatte, F.S.P.
Source: AmericanCatholic.org

Clint Eastwood’s latest directorial masterpiece is a biopic about J. Edgar Hoover (1895 - 1972) with Leonardo DiCaprio in the lead role.  Hoover directed the Federal Bureau of Investigation for 48 years and, according to the film, was a virtual demigod, a hybrid of a government servant who served his own ego above all.
 
The film shows aspects of American history few are probably familiar with such as the Palmer Raids carried out under the direction of Attorney General Alexander Palmer, “The Fighting Quaker” to qualm activities of anarchists, real (bombings did occur) or perceived, between 1919 and 1921. It was one of the first times the Justice Department acted against theoretical threats and ideas, something that Hoover would continue using illegal wiretaps and other means to protect the country as he thought was needed.
 
Hoover saw socialism and communism everywhere.
 
Much of the film is dedicated to the kidnapping of the 18-month old son of Charles (Josh Lucas) and Ann Morrow Lindberg and the scorn with which the New Jersey State Police treated Hoover’s belief in forensic science to solve crimes. If there is one thing that Hoover did that remains a huge civil and cultural influence today, it is in the area of forensics. There would be no CSI or legal programs without his groundbreaking work in forensics and centralizing the data.  Ideally, this kind of information could catch criminals as well as, hypothetically, clear the innocent. He also envisioned a national identity card, though even today, this idea is not acceptable to U.S. Citizens because of privacy issues. To Hoover, his vision of national security tempted the Constitution and all civil rights.
 
The film shows Hoovers close relationship with his secretary of more than fifty years, Helen Gandy (Naomi Watts). He trusted her above everyone as some say because they were both “married” to the Bureau. She destroyed many files upon his death and insisted none were official, though Hoover was known to have kept personal files on many people. He best friend and colleague was Clyde Tolson (Armie Hammer), with whom some think Hoover had a homosexual relationship. Tolson was Hoover’s deputy and they took vacations together; neither married. No one knows for sure what Hoover’s sexual orientation was, he was most certainly repressed, but the film seems to represent that his mother (Judy Dench) had a dominant influence on him in all ways and deterred him from a sexual relationship with a man. He lived with his mother until her death.
 
The story is told in a non-linear style, moving back and forth between the years, editing the young and aging the characters in an almost seamless fashion.  The film is surely going to be recognized for make-up and costume design.
 
DiCaprio is brilliant, as usual, and inhabits his character completely. Armie Hammer as Tolson often tries to reign in Hoovers zeal, and is a loyal yet vulnerable friend though Hoover’s fastidious pride almost never allows empathy. The script by Dustin Lance Black is complex and crisp.
 
Eastwood’s vision is interesting because he is commenting on American individualism taken to the extreme of almost unbridled power that neither elected or appointed government officials could regulate.
  Eastwood never strays far from the Western myth and the consequences of accepting it without question.


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Katharine Drexel: If your father is an international banker and you ride in a private railroad car, you are not likely to be drawn into a life of voluntary poverty. But if your mother opens your home to the poor three days each week and your father spends half an hour each evening in prayer, it is not impossible that you will devote your life to the poor and give away millions of dollars. Katharine Drexel did that. 
<p>She was born in Philadelphia in 1858. She had an excellent education and traveled widely. As a rich girl, she had a grand debut into society. But when she nursed her stepmother through a three-year terminal illness, she saw that all the Drexel money could not buy safety from pain or death, and her life took a profound turn. </p><p>She had always been interested in the plight of the Indians, having been appalled by what she read in Helen Hunt Jackson’s <i>A Century of Dishonor</i>. While on a European tour, she met Pope Leo XIII and asked him to send more missionaries to Wyoming for her friend Bishop James O’Connor. The pope replied, “Why don’t you become a missionary?” His answer shocked her into considering new possibilities. </p><p>Back home, Katharine visited the Dakotas, met the Sioux leader Red Cloud and began her systematic aid to Indian missions. </p><p>She could easily have married. But after much discussion with Bishop O’Connor, she wrote in 1889, “The feast of St. Joseph brought me the grace to give the remainder of my life to the Indians and the Colored.” Newspaper headlines screamed “Gives Up Seven Million!” </p><p>After three and a half years of training, she and her first band of nuns (Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament for Indians and Colored) opened a boarding school in Santa Fe. A string of foundations followed. By 1942 she had a system of black Catholic schools in 13 states, plus 40 mission centers and 23 rural schools. Segregationists harassed her work, even burning a school in Pennsylvania. In all, she established 50 missions for Indians in 16 states. </p><p>Two saints met when Katharine was advised by Mother Cabrini about the “politics” of getting her Order’s Rule approved in Rome. Her crowning achievement was the founding of Xavier University in New Orleans, the first Catholic university in the United States for African Americans. </p><p>At 77, she suffered a heart attack and was forced to retire. Apparently her life was over. But now came almost 20 years of quiet, intense prayer from a small room overlooking the sanctuary. Small notebooks and slips of paper record her various prayers, ceaseless aspirations and meditation. She died at 96 and was canonized in 2000.</p> American Catholic Blog Our task during these forty days is to examine our lives in light of God’s Word and see where we’ve allowed darkness to creep in, where we’ve taken the bait of the diabolical fisher of men. It’s time to use the sword of the Spirit to cut through his web of deception, to free ourselves from the net that holds us as prey.


 
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