starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Cate Blanchett, Kate Beckinsale, John C. Reilly, Alec Baldwin, Alan alda, Ian Holm, Danny Huston, Gwen Stefani, Jude Law and Willem Dafoe
written by John Logan
directed by Martin Scorsese
I have never been a great Leonardo DiCaprio fan, but The Aviator is, I think, the best acting I have ever seen from him, and I thought it was a good movie. It tells us some of the story of American billionaire Howard Hughes, from the late 1920s up to around 1947. Hughes began as a Dallas-based manufacturer of oil drill bits, and so many people wrongly think of him as an oil tycoon, which is not exactly accurate. He is famous for producing movies and socializing with many of the great Hollywoodactresses of his day, for his self-named aviation company, and the purchase of TWA airlines and its transformation into an international carrier. These are the features of the man’s life dealt with in this film.
Howard Hughes is also known as a mentally ill obsessive compulsive recluse: the Michael Jackson of his age. (Some might call that an insulting comparison. But insulting to whom?) He was one of those guys who never touched anything without a layer of tissue paper to protect himself from germs, who carried around his own personal bar of soap in his pocket, and who always ordered vegetables arranged in a certain geometric fashion on his plate in restaurants. If any less wealthy man was so eccentric he would have been committed to the funny farm.
Hughes himself was a pilot who liked to fly his own aircraft - both experimental and conventional. Flying was his therapy and his redemption. In the cockpit he could function like a normal man, but on the ground, in crowds and in public places he was brim full of pathologies. What a weenie.
I enjoyed John C. Reilly in the supporting role of Hughes’ long-suffering lawyer. Reilly is a first rate supporting actor that I always enjoy watching. Especially enjoyable was Cate Blanchett’s portrayal of the young Katherine Hepburn. Her performance was the highlight of the movie and she stole every scene she shared with DiCaprio. I didn’t know she was in the cast when I began watching the DVD. I just happened to have re-watched Elizabeth, the Virgin Queen shortly before and was excited when I recognized her. I knew of Hepburn’s long relationship with the Catholic and married Spencer Tracy, but I did not know that she was romantically connected with Howard Hughes before Tracy.
I also enjoyed Alan Alda as Senator Ralph Brewster, a politician pursing regulation of the air travel industry of the day - a regulation process that would have awarded PanAm airlines an international monopoly. I have seen very little of Alda since the end of the M*A*S*H television series in the 1980s. I always like his acting, but I hate what he does with his hands. He can’t stop moving them. He is a compulsive hand gesturer.
Jude Law comes and goes very quickly as Errol Flynn in what amounts to just a bit part. I had to watch and then watch again to recognize him.
But in the end, The Aviator tells us little and explains less about this enigmatic personality.