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Stars Leonardo DiCaprio in the title role; Armie Hammer as the assistant director and lifelong companion of Hoover, Clyde Tolson; Naomi Watts as Helen Gandy, Hoover's Secretary, and Judi Dench as Anna Marie Hoover, J.Edgar's mother.
Tropes used in J. Edgar include:
- Ambiguously Gay: Big time.
- Better as Friends: Hoover and Gandy.
- Roger Ebert suspects this is how Hoover and Tolsen decided their relationship should be, because "not being gay" offered greater rewards.
- Black and Grey Morality: Hoover often states one must bend the rules to save a country.
- Bomb-Throwing Anarchists: The 1919 version of Communism in the United States, at least according to Hoover.
- Bury Your Gays: An in-universe example: Hoover's mother tells her son about a boy who lived in their neighbourhood who shot himself a few weeks after being publicly humiliated at school for wearing a skirt. Everyone else had nicknamed him "Daffy", as in "daffodil". She goes on to say that she would rather have a dead son than have him be a "daffodil".
- The Cameo: Lea Thompson as Ginger Roger's mother.
- Chiaroscuro: Eastwood uses this style to visualize the shadowy world of secrets and lies that Hoover inhabits. Unusually, critics (at least according to the Rotten Tomatoes consensus) dismissed this as simply "bad lighting", despite the fact that Eastwood has been known to use this style for many of his films, notably Million Dollar Baby.
- Foregone Conclusion: It is a biopic! Most of the principle characters die or at the end of their lives at the end. Also, the viewer is pretty sure none of the Presidents managed to actually shut down the Bureau.
- Forensic Drama: Though not the focus of the film, screen time is spent on Hoover setting up what would become the world famous FBI Forensic Lab. The first version was a smoking lounge.
- Framing Device: A majority of the background of Hoover and the FBI is presented as Hoover dictating his memoirs to various agents.
- Gayngst: Hoover turning into a nervous wreck when he admits to his mother that he doesn't like dancing with women, which is what prompts Anna to deliver the abovementioned Bury Your Gays speech.
- Heterosexual Life Partners: Hoover and Tolson, Truth in Television. The movie goes further.
- Ho Yay: Though only explicitly stated a few times, this is the entire undercurrent of the relationship between Hoover and Tolson.
- Momma's Boy
- My Beloved Smother: Anna Hoover, BIG TIME.
- Nobody Over 50 Is Gay: Hoover and Tolson follow their routine together (work, dinner, horse races) and live togeteher well into their old age.
- Platonic Life Partners: Hoover and Gandy, apparently.
- Please Don't Leave Me: Hoover to Tolson.
- Hoover Pets the Dog and Kicks the Dog simultaneously when, over breakfast, he helps Tolson, who has recently suffered a stroke, peel a boiled egg...while berating him for failing to speak clearly. Did I mention he had a stroke?
- Punch Punch Kiss: Far beyond slaps, two full on fist on face smacks before a lip on lip smack.
- Unreliable Narrator: Hoover. To call his narrative of his own actions in the field embellished would be an understatement. He is called out for it at the end of the movie.
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