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Film Fans learn some history with 'J. Edgar'

EDITOR'S NOTE: Film Fans features local residents reviewing the film of the week: "J. Edgar." Want to be a film fan? Email features@gwinnettdailypost.com.

3 1/2 out of 4 Stars

A riveting story of the rise of J. Edgar Hoover into one of the most powerful and influential men of the 20th century is a must-see for anyone who loves great acting, drama and biographical history. Leonardo DiCaprio gives an Oscar-worthy performance in the story of a man who built the FBI into the institution it is today.

It starts with Hoover meeting with a writer to dictate his life story. In a blend of back-and-forth flashbacks, director Clint Eastwood smoothly shows Hoover's rise from his earliest job in the Bureau of Investigation, showing a talent for forensic science and catalog systems to his personal issues with his mother Annie (Judi Dench), whom he lived with until her death.

He is hired as the head of the FBI at 24 and turns it into the most powerful agency in the country. With an unrelenting determination and ego, Hoover takes on communists, bank robbers and the kidnapping of the Lindbergh (Josh Lucas) baby.

Although a long movie, "J. Edgar" never seemed dull or slow. It's a well-told biography that takes you through decades of history and personal relationships of one of the 20th century's most controversial figures.

-- Ken Gamble, Lawrenceville

1 out of 4 stars

This was a very dark movie, which explored the life of a true enigma, J. Edgar Hoover.

Hoover, played with intrigue by Leonardo DiCaprio, had a troubled soul that battled paranoia, schizophrenia and a host of other impediments. He was a self-serving, power-hungry tyrant who enjoyed handcuffing powerful people via threats of exposure.

This flick is flawed and void of any significant entertainment value.

Clint Eastwood, the director, fails miserably in bringing any life or zest into a bunch of zombie-like characters. The use of constant flashbacks is confusing and distracting as well. Unbelievably the film is more than two hours long, which seems like harsh and undue punishment to the viewing public. The screenplay lacks the depth and soul to make this movie anything special. The supporting cast selection is so weak that it morphs into distraction. In total, this is a major loser of a film that is undeserving of a brief glimpse when it hits Netflix in June.

-- Rick Wright, Auburn

3 out of 4 Stars

Clint Eastwood's biographical "J. Edgar," starring Leonardo DiCaprio (J. Edgar Hoover), Armie Hammer (Clyde Tolson, colleague/life partner), Naomi Watts (Helen Gandy) and Judi Dench (Hoover's mother) is the true story of J. Edgar Hoover's nearly 50-year span as director of the FBI.

"J. Edgar" provides background and examination into Hoover's private life and his influence with turning the FBI into the crime-solving organization that protects us today. Hoover's professional and private insecurities are touched upon, but the source of his personal demons is not explained. The irony of Hoover was he had dirty little secrets on every president from FDR to Nixon, but his own skeletons, which if revealed, would have destroyed his reputation as a hard-nosed crime fighter, his life, and possibly brought down the entire FBI organization.

I thought "J. Edgar" was a good movie, but it isn't my pick for the best movie for 2011. I wanted "J. Edgar" to delve into how he developed an awareness of fingerprint identifications and the beginning of forensic science. My movie buddy's opinion is that this was an Oscar-worthy film. I will take the matter under advisement.

-- Myra Simons, Buford