Sunday, May 29, 2005

The Aviator
(Director Martin Scorsese)

Reviewed by James Howard Kunstler

A peculiar story about a bizarre person, Howard Hughes, but rather grandly put together against the background of Hollywood in the early-to-mid 20th century -- an era that now seems as remote and enchanted as the medieval period.

Hughes's parents die when he is barely out of his teens, leaving him a fortune and an oil drilling equipment company that runs like a cash register. Rich young Howard, though, is magnetically drawn to the new movie industry in Los Angeles, with its air of risk, and adventure, and sex-on-demand.
Scorsese's evocation of the early Hollywood scene is the best thing about the movie -- the big set-pieces in the fabled Coconut Grove nightclub, the behavior of the slick young men and women who would become the stars of Hollywood's "Golden Age," all that glamorous fluff.

Leonardo DiCaprio is consistently interesting to watch. Whatever his public persona may be, the young feller can put across plausible behavior on screen, even with such an implausible character as Hughes for material.
The other big splash in the movie is Cate Blanchette doing a dead-on imitation of Katherine Hepburn, one of Hughes's more serious paramours. Blanchette doesn't really look anything like Hepburn, but she gets the weird, grating voice just right and the imperious manner.

The best scene in the movie, for my money, is the one in which Hepburn takes Hughes home to meet her family in Connecticut -- a clan of self-conscious and excrutiatingly phony rich bohemians, especially Katherine's censorious "socialist" mother who Howard neatly tells off. It seems to me that the movie ran about fifteen minutes too long, but it was all-in-all a competent and admirable job.

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