Those are two words that kept popping inside my head upon walking out of the theatre where I watched this tale of Howard Hughes, one of the greatest, or perhaps the most eccentric men who marked his presence in film industry and aviation field like no other tycoons have ever done. As loaded with larger-than-life images and stories, somehow the plane that I boarded in this film never really took off.
In his latest ambitious effort to capture Best Director prize in Academy Awards, Martin Scorsese tried to put his hand in making another biopic this time, in a scope of epic scale that he has recently indulged himself in to, with the likes of Gangs of New York or recalling a decade earlier, The Age of Innocence. THE AVIATOR focuses on the time span of early to mid 20th century, the time when Howard Hughes name would guarantee admirations and smirks at the same note, just as eccentric as his behavior can be, the name itself similar to the word controversy spelt all around his presence. From a movie-mogul to planes-obsessed person, from Katharine Hepburn to Ava Gardner to numerous starlets, Howards Hughes’ story is the story Hollywood filmmakers are dying to have, as rich as films that Hughes himself might direct or produce.
Yet, as any epics that look splendid on the surface, so does the film.
Scorsese painstakingly put an extra effort in recreating certain looks that he wanted to achieve by using different degrees of color associated to the ‘film-look’ of the era in which any particular part of the story took place, gradually emerged into a more natural look towards the end of the film. Such a pleasant viewing for the eyes, and apparently those external elements of tuneful music, exhilarating set designs and costume design did not help elevating this film to a higher level where I don’t need to wander my mind away for almost three-hour duration.
Which would lead us thinking: what is wrong with the story?
As the film itself was meant to be a tribute to celebrate Hughes remarkable achievement in his peak period of time, which is why the timeline would only stretch from mid 1920s to 1950s, the story seems to be drifting apart in between glorifying his fame to retelling his private live which differ in a great contrast from one another. Certainly John Logan had to bear a difficult task in merging these two, not to mention that the script itself has been tossed around for years in development, suspiciously resulting in catharsis of mediating between the two, leaving different stories stand on their own.
The only thing that is able to keep me glued to my seat is the eclectic performance delivered by Cate Blanchett in her perfect-pitched impersonation as Katharine Hepburn. Not merely mimicking her accent or gesture, Blanchett went to the extent that she imbued the Hepburn persona within herself, so much so that while we could still see Blanchett on the screen without any exaggerated prosthetic makeup, we are taken to the state of believability that the soul of Hepburn was present in the film, thanks to Blanchett decision to play her character from within, and Hepburn’s over-the-top gestures were convincingly and vividly portrayed as if Blanchett has forever donned this role to her own character for a long time.
However, the same cannot be said to Leonardo DiCaprio who tries too hard to capture the eccentricity of Hughes by risking himself to certain unnecessary acts, only show to us that DiCaprio himself has not been able to shake off his own image as a dashing young actor in delivering the role. Looking at him in the big screen, one may not help wondering if Hughes did really raise his eyebrows all the time, or how unconvincing it is to see him alongside the grand presence of Blanchett as Hepburn. It does not help either when he bared himself on the screen to show Hughes’s near-madness mental situation, or his smirk face shown when he got obsessed with cleanliness to the extreme. Call it a curse of his handsome feature, yet DiCaprio fails to bring out Hughes’s eccentricity to convincing performance.
Whereas many people praise this film as the most accessible Scorsese film which he made this as a ‘less-personal’ work, on the other hand I find that decision is regretted as the whole film itself is buried under the applaudable gorgeous presentation. Surely, with all the rising hype and the buzz of the film being one of the best, I could only scratch my head and whispering to myself: One of the most over-rated films ever.