Published Dec 01, 2004Howard Hughes may have been crazy, but, as we learn through Martin Scorsese's The Aviator, he was also fascinating. Though Hughes was eccentric, his nuttiness came in differing degrees: the director/producer/aviator is most famous for being obsessive-compulsive and germ phobic, illnesses that led him to lock himself in a room, naked, collecting his urine in milk bottles. But what Scorsese shows us through Leonardo DiCaprio's portrayal of Hughes is that he was also a risk-taking engineering genius who created some significant developments in airplane design history. He wasn't afraid to take chances with the mounds of money he inherited from his father's drill bit business, and in many instances this is what caused people at the time to believe he was crazy. If they only knew what he was up to out of the public eye.
The Aviator proves to be a better vehicle for the pairing of Scorsese and DiCaprio than 2002's Gangs of New York. While Gangs wasn't a bad film, The Aviator tops it, hands down. The look of the film alone is striking, going from early scenes shot in muted oranges and browns to simulated newsreel footage to a more modern, colourful look as the story progresses. A plane crash scene uses special effects to gut wrenching effect by taking us through the whole ordeal inside the cockpit. But it's really the over-the-top old Hollywood-style characters that make this film.
The Aviator is one of DiCaprio's shining moments in his spotty acting career. Nevertheless, when the guy's good, he's good. His Hughes starts out as a Jimmy Stewart-like all-American man before turning into a more complex character. However, Cate Blanchett as Katherine Hepburn is the true achievement in this film. She is Hepburn, complete with loud, over-annunciating voice. The character's penchant for verbalising observations that most people keep inside their heads is what makes her the comic relief as well. In one scene Howard gives her control of the plane their flying. "Howard," she says, "there's a rather alarming mountain heading our way."
Many were anticipating The Aviator because of the novelty factor of Gwen Stefani's acting debut. Don't get too excited, it's a major let down. Not because she's a bad actor, which unsurprisingly she is, but because she's only on the screen for about ten minutes. (Warner)