The widely reported rumors that Hoover was a cross-dresser are almost ignored, probably for the best. There is no actual evidence to support these dubious claims. But the topic of Hoover’s suspected homosexuality is very much a focus of J. Edgar. In fact, another problem with the movie is just how schizophrenic it feels as it switches between reenacting actual events and speculating about Hoover’s relationship with colleague and friend Clyde Tolson (Armie Hammer). It’s hard to take the scenes that occur behind closed doors seriously, as they are purely the product of speculative imagining. While Black’s screenplay doesn’t exactly “out” Hoover as being gay, it definitely takes the stance that he and Tolson were lovers. I don’t personally care either way, I just don’t like such great liberties taken when portraying a historical figure onscreen. Hammer, for what it’s worth, turns in fine work as Tolson, despite being saddled with comically bad old age makeup.
J. Edgar is an interesting looking film; extremely dark and shadowy. The Blu-ray presentation does an exemplary job of conveying that look. Sharpness is never lacking, even during scenes where most of the visuals are shrouded in darkness. This is about as close to black-and-white that a color film can get. The color seems to have been intentionally drained from the image. What is left – dark grays, blues, and earth tones – is solidly presented. Black levels are necessarily very deep and solid. Whether one agrees with the aesthetic decision by Eastwood his cinematographer Tom Stern, it’s hard to find fault in this transfer.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix is a great example of the use of contrast in sound. Most of the movie is very subtle, with clear, intelligible dialogue dominating the proceedings. The score is appropriately balanced, never overpowering quiet scenes of people simply talking. But when it needs to shake things up, the track gets the job done. A gigantic explosion at private residence early in the film had me almost literally jumping out of my seat. The LFE channel rumbled impressively, while the rear channels featured distinct shattering sounds. Other scenes taking place outdoors, such as those involving the search for the Lindbergh baby, crackle and pop with activity in all channels. While J. Edgar is mostly a sedate audio experience, the sound design is well represented.