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The Aviator

January 25, 2014

The Aviator (2004)
Director: Martin Scorsese
Actors: Leonardo DiCaprio, Cate Blanchett, Alan Alda

Image result for the aviator film

Synopsis: The life of famed American filmmaker and aviator, Howard Hughes (Leonardo DiCaprio), from the 1920s to the late ’40s.

Review: The muscular efforts of Martin Scorsese in bringing this story of Howard Hughes to life mirror the on-screen travails of Hughes himself. There’s lots of sweat, endeavour, gusto and drive (and no little money) but it all adds up to only a moderate end-result. Scorsese isn’t to blame. In fact, his earnestness in committing totally to the story at hand is admirable, and in a sense he does a great job of making the raw materials of a snapshot of Hollywood and the aviation industry in the ’30s and ’40s as riveting as it can be. It’s that story itself that hinders the end-result. For sure, Hughes makes for a fascinating biography on a Wikipedia page but this film’s take on him and its dramatic conceit that a great, obsessive personality begets an obsessive, dysfunctional personal life and frail mental well-being just isn’t that nuanced or tragic.

Even a minor Scorsese effort though always has enough going on in its ragged edges to keep it entertaining. Some of his technical flourishes are striking: the cracking sound design of the paparazzi’s flashing bulbs, and the heightening of the colour green in the post-production process – particularly memorable in the Hughes-Hepburn golf courtship scene. It’s also an enjoyable parlour-game to see past Hollywood legends brought to life by current Hollywood legends. Cate Blanchett’s celebrated turn as Katharine Hepburn deserves the praise it garlanded, working as impersonation but also as a deeper portrait of Hepburn’s inner workings. Let’s just forget the impossible scene where Blanchett (as an actress) has to affect Hepburn (her character) being told by Hughes to stop “being an actress all the time”. There are about three layers of reference there that even Blanchett can’t quite pull off – but other than that it’s a super performance. (January 2014)

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