Casting Leonardo DiCaprio as Howard Hughes was like sending a boy to do a man's job. He was surprisingly good late in the film & quite convincing as the deteriorating Howard Hughes. He was never half so successful as the dynamic driven Howard Hughes cuz let's face it, he's more convincing in wussy faggoty roles.
Jude Law in his very trivial cameo as Erroll Flynn is rivetting, making one wonder how this film would've played if Jude had had the starring role; it would've been better, at least. The supporting cast, especially Cate Blanchett, but down the least character, all out-performed DiCaprio, so the film does suffer from "Star-itis," a disease that afflicts many films that for marketing reasons get saddled with a big star in lieu of an appropriate actor.
I can't help but think there could've been a great film here with such a great director in charge, but it is only an okay film. By looking primarily at the Howard Hughes of the tabloids & making everything else adhere to the tabloid portrait, we get to see only the nut, not a well-rounded portrait of a complex man who eventually succumbed to mental illness. It is very difficult to see the Hughes who had authentic genius, screen appeal, & appeal to the ladies. He just comes off as the nut, & a rather wussy nutter at that.
DiCaprio's best scene before Congress are good, but if you've seen the footage of Howard Hughes' actual performance before Congress, DiCaprio is in weak second-place. Even in the early scenes before Hughes totally loses it, DiCaprio plays him as a jittery weirdo. Still, as biopics go, this is good of kind, given that most such films so irrevocably suck.
The artsy-fartsy choice to use unrealistic color sometimes had an old-timey Technicolor feel but mostly made it look comic-book garish & was a distraction. For such an expensive film it often looks like it was shot on video tape, perhaps because Scorsese relinquished too much power to special FX teams who were trying to make the human characters look as fuzzed out & artificial as do the animated flight sequences.
In general Scorsese's reliance on CGI for the film's "action" weakened the film dramatically. I don't believe anyone really goes to a Scorsese film for the special FX. For much of the film his direction seems as commercially tawdry as Spielberg but not as glitzy-slick as Spielberg, so the faults are more obvious.
The Aviator is certainly entertaining & emotionally harrowing in that last third of the film, & Cate as Kate was so good she stole all scenes she was in & made up for DiCaprio's periodic mediocrity, even though the relationship depicted between Hepburn & Hughes was entirely a fiction. A more exciting film would've had Cate as Kate & been about her great love for Spenser Tracy.
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