Friday, January 07, 2005

The Aviator (A Review)

[Owing to time constraints and a short attention span, I present you with a barely proof-read review of The Aviator. I hope you enjoy it, but obiously not as much as you would if I'd actually written it properly. Have good weekends peeps.]

The Aviator, certificate, er, 15 probably, realeased nationwide today, I imagine, although don't quote me on that.

Martin Scorcese's latest attempt to colour the history books Leonardo DiCaprio weighs in at nigh on three hours for a biography of a man about whom most of us know nothing except that he spent the last years of his life wearing Kleenex boxes on his feet. Howard Hughes, the aviator in question, is first shown on the set of Hell's Angels, requesting more and more involved aircraft stunt scenes from the WWI epic. He is an arrogant but intelligent man, rich on his family's drill-bit money. The film carries us through to his interrogation in front of a congressional hearing for Hughes' alleged war profiteering and just before his final descent into complete bonkersdom, wherein he buys up the means to pursue his interests of twin flying (forming Hughes Aviation to make the planes and buying TWA to have something to do with them) and films (funding his own grandiose films, and eventually buying RKO). His third interest, attractive women, seems to be fed adequately from the glamour associated with the first two (Katherine Hepburn - played with vim by Cate Blanchett, Ava Gardner - Kate Beckinsale in a couple of short scenes, and others).

By focusing on the early years, Scorcese presents a classic story of rich boy made good, where the hero reels from one glamourous situation to the next. He rages against the even richer vested interests, who either fail to see the sense in what he's doing, or are threatened by it (the government, the rest of the aviation industry, the film industry, etc.). His humanity is defined largely in opposition to others (the pretentious artistic snobbery of the Hepburns, the obstructionist self-interest of established corporations, the probity of the censors, etc.), so much so that he's largely an empty vessel, only his encroaching Obsessive Compulsive Disorder fleshing him out. Heavy-handed psychoanalysis by the director (it was his mother!) feels unnecessary. Hughes' descent is so bizarre that it's hard to keep the level of sympathy up, despite Scorcese's best efforts, and eventually it's all but impossible to suppress the sniggers as the urine in milk bottles builds up. Certainly there was a fair amount of tittering in the audience I was in. Really the most tragic thing about him, underexplored in the film, is the way that his illness was indulged rather than treated because of his money, power and the overabundance of yes-men. To build up his repute, he's shown seeing the importance, before anyone else, of talking movies, long distance commercial air travel, monoplanes, jet engines, breasts and germs.

However, the film zips along, with a few good visual motifs (milk consumption, preponderance of the colour green, noisy noisy flashbulbs), and the helpful for the sub-retirement age Pathe news-style voiceovers to introduce yet another notable from the 40s. In case the glamour of the setting was in danger of making you forget who directed this movie, there is a really quite disgusting scene of a plane crash, that ought to have the label 'contains an extended scene of icky oozing pumping blood and buggeringly big explosions'. There's a quite wonderful cameo by Jude Law as Errol Flynn, displaying the rakish bullying self-confidence that made him shine in The Talented Mr Ripley. Although far too short, in the couple of minutes of screen time, he manages to upset Hughes and Hepburn by being outrageously blasé, and then proceeds to swashbuckle his way into a fist fight. Scorcese, if he's got any sense left, ought to have begun work on Errol before Law had a chance to shave off the moustache. Additionally, there's a possibly intentionally hilarious scene where an Evil Corrupt Businessman (the Pan-Am boss) is seen in an extravagantly decorated penthouse office caressing a globe as he undertakes a long power-crazed monologue. The vapidity of the central character reduces what would otherwise have been a great film into a portmanteau of entertaining scenes, without enough insight into the central character to tie them together. The cut-off point seems arbitrary, and perhaps more understanding would have been gained by viewing Hughes in later life.

Rating: 6 hobnobs.


  1. Hobnobs? Couldn't you be more imaginative? They were right next to the computer for God's sake!

  2. OK, 6 empty wine bottles then. And on behalf of the internet, I'd like to apologise to Mr Scorsese for the mis-spelling of his name. I spelt DiCaprio right mind, and I'm proud of that.