Review | J. Edgar

Credit: Keith Bernstein

Opens: Wednesday 11/9

Us Rating: ***

He headed the FBI for 48 years and secretly dressed in women's clothing. Now J. Edgar Hoover's eccentric, enigmatic life gets a worthwhile biopic treatment. Leonardo DiCaprio characterizes Hoover as a mama's boy, fiercely protective of his country and paranoid to a fault. After landing the top cop job in the 1920s, he becomes consumed with chasing down communists and solving the 1932 kidnapping of aviator Charles Lindbergh's baby -- but, surprisingly, the movie's crime component serves only as a backdrop to a complex love story.

Hoover's saga -- as directed by Clint Eastwood -- lifts off when dashing Clyde Tolson (Armie Hammer) gets hired as his deputy. While Hoover grows more power-hungry in public, he privately struggles with his attraction to his devoted, closeted colleague. (Amid a few muted scenes, there's an electric jolt when Tolson tells his boss, "I love you.") DiCaprio and a superb Hammer give impassioned performances. Even caked in old-age makeup, the actors movingly convey the anguish of repressed love.