Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Review: The Aviator

Scorsese's Howard Hughes biopic, which is out now on DVD, manages to avoid being horrible or pitiable in the way a lot of Hollywood blockbusters are, but doesn't quite swing too far in the other direction (i.e., the good one), either. It is watchable, if a bit long, and it has some well-made scenes. Perhaps my favorite was the climactic show down between a freshly shaven Hughes (played by DiCaprio) facing down the senator from Maine who's in cahoots with PanAm's president (played with delicious swagger by Alec Baldwin) during a heated series of congressional hearings.

The film is full of famous names and flashy cameos (such as Gwen Stefani as Jean Harlow for barely longer than the length of a red-carpet walk). And it's sort of fun to try to figure out who'll appear next. B. remarked on how well Cate Blanchett channeled K. Hepburn, and perhaps she did deserve her Oscar for the effort, although I wasn't too fond of it.

Gradually, Hughes' OCD, paranoia and general weirdness dominate the story and the film finishes before you expect it to with a nod to the opening childhood scene where his mother appears to be planting the fear-of-all-germs in him while teaching him how to spell quarantine. As many reviews have pointed out, you see a whole lot of Hughes, but you don't see into him much. Perhaps Scorsese should have spent less on the sets and effects and more on getting a team of writers to imbue the characters with more human interest and emotion.

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