Dir. Martin Scorsese
170 min; Starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Cate Blanchett, Kate Beckinsale, John C. Reilly, Alec Baldwin, Alan Alda, Jude Law and Gwen Stefani
"You feel like a little adventure?" "Do your worst Mr. Hughes."
Martin Scorsese is one of those directors that I'm compelled to like everything that they've done. I really cannot think of a film of his that I didn't like. That said there are people who find his films (Gangs of New York, Taxi Driver, Goodfellas, Raging Bull) unsettling and disturbing, filled with violent, angry men and the worlds that they inhabit. However, on the surface The Aviator is the Scorsese film for all the people who don't like that side of his films. This one has garnered amazing critical sucess, coupled with good word of mouth. This PG-13 Scorsese picture could be the one that finally brings Marty the sucess he has been denied since Rocky beat Taxi Driver for Best Picture in 1976. Furthermore, Leonardo DiCaprio has graduated to full blown leading man, and may himself get an Oscar nod for this self-produced biopic of one of the most fascinating individuals of the twentieth century.
The surface of The Aviator is decieving. While this may seem to be a strange picture for Scorsese to be directing (supposedly he was convinced to direct the film by friend DiCaprio), but on closer examination this is a perfect Scorsese vehicle. Howard Hughes was a superstar with a dark side. His airplanes flew the globe, his movies populated the silver screen. He dated the hottest actresses and hung out at the swankiest clubs. But beneath all that Hughes was tormented by inner demons. His life long struggle with OCD drove him to the brink of madness, time and time again until he ended his life a bizzare and faded memory of his former greatness, long hair and kleenex boxes in bungalow in Los Vegas. This film doesn't cover his whole life, but rather focuses on the period between 1927 and 1947 when Hughes Aircraft and TWA dominated the airways and Hughes's Hell's Angels was the most expensive movie ever made. It's an exciting and fascinating look at a man who for all his sucess is overcome by his own mind.
DiCaprio as Hughes is a revelation. I was won over by his peformances in (which I incidently love) and Gangs of New York and Catch Me If You Can. Here the memories of the teen hearthrob from Titantic are almost entirely disappeared (he's still a boyish looking man, but you can't fault him for that). DiCaprio brings an intensity and seriousness to Hughes that I haven't seen in him before. This is a performance that is all in the eyes.
Cate Blanchett however steals the film from everyone with her portrayal of Katherine Hepburn. We all know what the real Kate Hepburn was like, and the differences in their appearance, but Blanchett is completely convincing as Hepburn. Again, her performance is all about attitude. Her ability to capture the fire and (again) intensity that the real life persona carried with her is remarkable. Blanchett studied Hepburn for months to effect the mannerism's, poise, and even her distinctive upper-class New Enland accent. If Blanchett doesn't win I'll be dissapointed. While Hollywood often loves characters who recreate real-life characters, often much of the performance is marked by make-up or dramatic physical change. But here is a perforance where an actress becomes the character, not through gimmicks and make-up, but rather with a purely brilliant performance.
This is also a brilliant looking film. Scorsese captures the Technicolor look of the films of the period and drapes his biopic in the same kind of look. The special effects are top notch, particularly a crash scene in Beverly Hills will take your breath away.
It's not a perfect film, but like Scorsese's Gangs of New York before it, it transcends its flaws (the film is a touch long for the subject matter) to be one of the most entertaining and fascinating films of the year and one of my favourites.