Windy City Media Group Frontpage News Home
CELEBRATING 28+ YEARS OF Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender NEWS

Search Gay News Articles
Advanced Search
Gay News Sponsor Windy City Times 2014-07-30
Download Issue
  News Index       Archives   About WCMG    Publications    Bars & Clubs     Calendar   Videos   Advertisers    OUT! Guide    Classifieds   AIDS @ 32
 Local | National | World | Politics | Obits | Profiles | Views | Entertainment | Theater | Dance | Music | Film | Art | Books | TV/Gossip
 Travel | History | Marriage | Youth | Trans | Lesbian | Celebrations | Food | Nightlife | Sports | Health | Real Estate | Autos | Pets | Crime

Housing activists rally to support SRO resolution Housing activists rally to support SRO resolution
Shortly before the Chicago City Council on July 30 approved, without discussion, ...

Browse Gay News Index   Browse Gay News Archives
  Windy City Times

Richard Knight, Jr., for Windy City Times Knight at the Movies: J. Edgar; Ultrasuede: In Search of Halston
by Richard Knight, Jr., for Windy City Times
2011-11-09

facebook twitter pin it del.icio.us stumble upon digg google +1 reddit email

Leonardo DiCaprio as J. Edgar Hoover in J. Edgar. Photo courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures


The idea of a collaboration between director-actor Clint Eastwood (maker of a series of "weighty," epic-sized historical movies now entering his eighth decade, and a longtime force in the Hollywood establishment) and out screenwriter Dustin Lance Black (the movie star-handsome Oscar winner for his script for 2008's Milk and a tireless activist for gay rights) is a bit of a head-scratcher. J. Edgar, their two-and-a-half-hour film about the life of the longtime FBI director J. Edgar Hoover that stars Leonardo DiCaprio, is as uneasy a cohabitation of the talents of Eastwood and Black as that of the movie's depiction of the relationship between Hoover and his longtime worker and private companion, Clyde Tolson.

Eastwood's saga is part biography of both Hoover and the FBI agency he headed for 48 years, through its infancy and dual rise to unrivaled power and part quasi-love story between Hoover and Tolson. The first is as dull and emotionally bland as the color scheme—dark blue, black and deep brown. The latter, which doesn't kick in until nearly the one-hour mark, at least offers a bit of juice and intermittent flavor to this otherwise "tasteful" (read: dry-as-toast) enterprise. Up to that point you keep wondering why anyone would bother with this spotty history lesson viewed through the distorted lens of such a despotic character and, much worse for dramatic purposes, apparently such a boring one.

Like Milk, Black's screenplay uses the flashback device in which the protagonist dictates his memoirs in the present as a way to explore his past. As the aging Hoover, DiCaprio in his old man make-up resembles an elderly Jon Voight—complete with liver spots—and spends a lot of time obsessing over his enemies (real and imagined) while tersely justifying his ethical and legal breeches (which only Tolson, played with delicate finesse by Armie Hammer, seems brave enough to point out to him). None of the career highlights that Hoover recalls, however, as he dictates to a couple of different cutie-pie male typists, is particularly involving. Also, the sections about Hoover's infamous secret files—filled with dirt on everyone (including Eleanor Roosevelt via a love letter to her from purported female lover Lorena Hickok)—merely add to the man's reprehensible character and aren't really explored.

All these sequences become time-stoppers while we wait to get back to Hoover and his dragon lady of a mother (played with typical expertise by Judi Dench), and Hoover and Tolson—both of which attempt to rip back the curtain covering Hoover's homosexuality. Relying on conjecture, arrived at through historical and anecdotal research, Black imagines scenes that suggest Hoover's personal anguish at being gay and, at last, DiCaprio can give this flinty, petty bore some complexity. "I'd rather have a dead son than a daffodil," mommy dearest tells him at one point after reminding him of what happened to a gay male adolescent companion of J. Edgar who committed suicide; DiCaprio's face answers this with a myriad of anguished emotions. There's a real Norman Bates/Mrs. Bates tinge to the relationship between mother and son that is amplified when a sobbing, bereft Hoover puts on her dressing gown and jewelry after she dies. By this point, he doesn't seem far from a sociopath—mixed up over his "base," violent urges.

Hoover's forbidden desires for his own kind are somewhat answered, as the movie has it, by his rather chaste relationship with Tolson. (It's so coded that when Edgar offers Clyde the number-two spot in the organization we immediately understand its really a proposal of marriage.) The "close friendship" between the two—filled with talk of fashion and gossip amidst visits to the racetrack—is okay with Hoover as long as it's kept out of the public eye. However, things erupt when Hoover (the implicit top to Clyde's acquiescent bottom) casually mentions in passing that he wants to marry (for appearances) movie star Dorothy Lamour, and Tolson goes nuts. A slugfest leads to a kiss on the mouth from Tolson, which leads to a bloody lip—the physical intimacy apparently being too much for Hoover.

This scene is the emotional peak of the dolorous movie, and here Eastwood and Black do seem to share the same point of view—compassion for their closeted antihero. However, will the audience—especially those who remember a man who used his powers to shield his personal proclivities while destroying the lives of his own kind in his quest for power—share that view? Perhaps the more relevant question would be: Will they really care?

In Ultrasuede: In Search of Halston, Whitney Sudler-Smith, nascent documentary filmmaker and son of socialite Patricia Altschul, announces that he wants to find out the real story of what happened to the gay fashion icon whose excessive, Studio 54-party lifestyle epitomized the '70s disco era. However, what emerges is less a portrait of its ostensible subject than that of his times, and the film suffers from yet another examination of the disco era. Adding insult to injury is Sudler-Smith's jokey tone (dressing in a series of '70s get-ups, tooling around Manhattan in a gleaming Trans Am) and amateurish interview skills (not bothering, apparently, to do research and, at one point, daring to ask fashion guru Andre Leon Talley who Diana Vreeland was). Worst, he inserts himself a la Michael Moore into nearly every scene in the movie, overshadowing his subject (who would've dismissed Sudler-Smith, one suspects, with a swat of his hand) and sidetracking the film every time it gets going with each personal digression (of which there are a lot).

The movie is saved by a treasure trove of retro footage; the interview subjects (including Liza Minnelli, Dianne Von Furstenberg, Anjelica Huston, Bob Colacello, Ming Vauze and Chris Makos) who put up with Sudler-Smith's soft-pedal questions (just barely); a slick editor who seamlessly drops in the archival material; and the music supervisor who knows just where to place the high-profile music tracks.

In an ironic twist, Halston's fate in real life—being shunted aside when corporations took over his label and his designer name—is mirrored by Sudler-Smith's movie, which purports to give us the real story behind Roy Halston Frowick, the simple country boy from Iowa whose fashion sense took the world by storm. However, the film gets sidetracked by a fascination by the excesses that apparently also befell Halston himself.

The movie is being shown exclusively at the Landmark Century Centre Cinemas as part of the American Express Tribeca Film Festival on the Road, a Nov. 11-13 mini-fest celebrating the main Manhattan-based event. Five other indie films—Janie Jones, the Chicago-based and filmed Last Rites of Joe May, The Man on the Train, Northeast and Don't Go In the Woods—will be screened (many with cast and crew members in attendance at screenings). Visit http://www.tribecafilm.com/amex.

Check out my archived reviews at www.windycitymediagroup.com or www.knightatthemovies.com . Readers can leave feedback at the latter website.


facebook twitter pin it del.icio.us stumble upon digg google +1 reddit email




Windy City Media Group does not approve or necessarily agree with the views posted below.
Please do not post letters to the editor here. Please also be civil in your dialogue.
If you need to be mean, just know that the longer you stay on this page, the more you help us.

Joan Jett's honor; Nathan Lane's point; 'True Blood' 2014-07-30
Knight at the Movies: Marvel's Guardians...; Lucy; film notes 2014-07-30
Agnes Moorehead to get her due at NRHOF ceremony 2014-07-30
Wachowskis to open studio to benefit TransLife Center 2014-07-30
Knight at the Movies: And So It Goes; film notes 2014-07-23
The Bijou Chronicles Steven Toushin: Matt Revira 2014-07-23
Dustin Lance Black plane scare; Quinto movie news; NeNe vs. Wendy 2014-07-22
GLAAD's Vito Russo Test: Offensive film content from largest studios 2014-07-22
Film about adoption premieres at Center 2014-07-16
Laverne Cox on 'FREE CECE,' kids and uniting LGBTs 2014-07-16
Lisa Whelchel sets the 'Facts' straight with new movie 2014-07-15
UN music video for gay rights Exceeds One Million Views 2014-07-15
The White Room with Laura Chernicky at Gene Siskel July 16 2014-07-14
NUNN ON ONE Fred Willard returns to Second City 2014-07-14
The White Room film heads to the Gene Siskel Film Center 2014-07-11
Movie festival gives voice, vision to Black LGBTQ filmmakers 2014-07-09
Knight at the Movies: The Nance; film notes 2014-07-08
Truth In Progress launches kickstarter campaign for film 2014-07-07
Film highlights Birth Certificate Access Law 2014-07-03
Pride Films/Plays: LezFest: A One Night Fling July 28 2014-07-03
Burger King unveils film celebrating self-expression 2014-07-02
Knight at the Movies: Tammy; All Night Long; Gore Vidal 2014-07-02
'Normal Heart' DVD out on Aug. 26 2014-07-02
Patrik-Ian Polk's Blackbird screening at local film festival 2014-07-02
George Takei: On Trump, Stern and 'Oh, my!' 2014-07-02
Reeling set for in Sept.; call for entries 2014-07-02
Hollywood luminary talks lesbians, drag and Uma Thurman 2014-07-02
French actor Niney portrays fashion icon Yves Saint Laurent 2014-06-25
Knight at the Movies: Jersey Boys; film notes 2014-06-25
Moorehead among Radio Hall of Fame inductees 2014-06-25
Black Alphabet Film Festival July 2-3 2014-06-25
First Chicago Jewish Film Festival thru June 29 2014-06-25
tello Films documents hip-hop/soul duo God Des & She 2014-06-25
Jose Antonio Vargas on being gay, immigration reform 2014-06-25
MOVIES Jenny Slate: 'Obvious'-ly funny 2014-06-24
Salute to LGBT veterans at Daley Plaza June 30 2014-06-24
Local theaters screen The Nance starring Nathan Lane 2014-06-23
'Jersey Boys' discuss fifth gay 'Season,' aging in movies 2014-06-18
Knight at the Movies: Ten years of KATM; notes 2014-06-18
Plaintiffs, film's director on 'The Case Against 8' 2014-06-17





Copyright © 2014 Windy City Media Group. All rights reserved.
Reprint by permission only. PDFs for back issues are downloadable from
the online archives. Single copies of back issues in print form are
available for $4 per issue, older than one month for $6 if available,
by check to the mailing address listed below.

Return postage must accompany all manuscripts, drawings, and
photographs submitted if they are to be returned, and no
responsibility may be assumed for unsolicited materials.
All rights to letters, art and photos sent to Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago
Gay and Lesbian News and Feature Publication) will be treated
as unconditionally assigned for publication purposes and as such,
subject to editing and comment. The opinions expressed by the
columnists, cartoonists, letter writers, and commentators are
their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay,
Lesbian, Bisexual and Transegender News and Feature Publication).

The appearance of a name, image or photo of a person or group in
Nightspots (Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times
(a Chicago Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender News and Feature
Publication) does not indicate the sexual orientation of such
individuals or groups. While we encourage readers to support the
advertisers who make this newspaper possible, Nightspots (Chicago
GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay, Lesbian
News and Feature Publication) cannot accept responsibility for
any advertising claims or promotions.

 

 

 



 

First couple to adopt looks back
 
Illinois takes step to end trans insurance bias
 
MUSIC Lakeside Pride Freedom Band director Zurcher resigns on a high note
 
A Gay in the Life: Rick Aguilar
 
SCOTTISH PLAY SCOTT Grand-scale Greek drama
 
Windy City Times Current DownloadNightspots Current DownloadQueercast Current Download
Windy City Media Group BlogsJoin Our Email List!Donate Now








  News Index       Archives   About WCMG    Publications    Bars & Clubs     Calendar   Videos   Advertisers    OUT! Guide    Classifieds   AIDS @ 32
 Local | National | World | Politics | Obits | Profiles | Views | Entertainment | Theater | Dance | Music | Film | Art | Books | TV/Gossip
 Travel | History | Marriage | Youth | Trans | Lesbian | Celebrations | Food | Nightlife | Sports | Health | Real Estate | Autos | Pets | Crime



About WCMG      Contact Us      Online Front  Page      Windy City  Times      Nightspots      OUT! Guide     
Identity      BLACKlines      En La Vida      Archives      Subscriptions      Distribution      Windy City Queercast     
Queercast Archives      Advertising  Rates      Deadlines      Advanced Search     
Press  Releases      Event Photos      Join WCMG  Email List      Email Blast     
Upcoming Events      Todays Events      Ongoing Events      Post an Event      Bar Guide      Community Groups      In Memoriam      Outguide Categories      Outguide Advertisers      Search Outguide      Travel      Dining Out      Blogs      Spotlight  Video      News Videos      Nightspots Videos      Entertainment Videos      Queercast Videos      Comedy Videos     
Classifieds      Real Estate      Place a  Classified     

Windy City Media Group produces Windy City Queercast, & publishes Windy City Times,
The Weekly Voice of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Trans Community,
Nightspots, Out! Resource Guide, and Identity.
5315 N. Clark St. #192, Chicago, IL 60640-2113 • PH (773) 871-7610 • FAX (773) 871-7609.