Saw The Aviator last night. Very good. It kind of drops you in the middle of things without giving you much of a lead-in, which is unusual for a biopic, but the movie is already pretty long, and Scorcese probably felt that the parts of Hughes’ early life that he was omitting weren’t that interesting, and that the audience could fill in the blanks.
And there’s a lot of ground to cover. When people my age think of Howard Hughes, we probably think of him in his latter years, as a pathetic figure–I know I did. What I’ve always failed to appreciate is that he really was a larger-than-life character who also happened to be nuts. This movie brought that side of him into sharp focus and showed how he battled with his dementia. It’s easy to write off Leonardo DiCaprio as another pretty-boy actor, but he did a damn good job.
Cate Blanchett as Kate Hepburn was just uncanny–the movie is worth seeing for her performance alone. Hepburn was so distinctive in her mannerisms, speech, etc, that any imitation would easily slip into parody. Not here. Lots of other big or recognizable faces pop up throughout the film, too. What’s Willem Dafoe doing in such a tiny part?
The movie ends before Hughes did, and relies on our knowledge of his decline for some of its power. The movie sticks in my mind, making me think about the potential of a man like that, held back by madness that (at least at the time) could not really be addressed, and perhaps wouldn’t be when the sufferer is in a position of such authority.