Since the "The Aviator" is such a long movie, it deserves only a short review.
Martin Scorcese's latest is a somewhat picaresque story about an excruciatingly lived life of a man whose myriad complexities are not of any great interest to me. However, I do think Aviation owes Howard Hughes a debt of gratitude for the cajones he brought to advancing the industry. His contribution to film, I believe, is much less.
As Hughes, Leonardo DiCaprio plays against type using a voice and accent one could mistake for a mix of Bill Clinton and Jack Nicholson.
Not a pleasant sound.
Lots of cameos: Alan Alda as the Maine senator who is Hughes' foe with a CAB bill then in Congress. Alec Baldwin seems to relish his part as the unctuous CEO of Pan Am. And in a cameo of the even more roguish Errol Flynn, we have Jude Law, who I think, has only not been in three of all the films released in 2004.
"The Aviator" wasn't really satisfying for me, as it dwells on Hughes' emotional problems: phobic need for cleanliness and avoidance of germs, paranoia and panic attacks. (His mother is to blame, according to the script.) Just what we all need to see over this Christmas holiday.
One interesting scene is when Hughes is invited to the Hepburn estate in Connecticut, which turns into an unpleasant event. At lunch, the haughty, liberal Hepburns are too much for Hughes. They're played as real leftwing jerks; that plays well to the politics of today.
Frances Conroy, who is the mother in HBO's "Six Feet Under," plays Hepburn's mother in that scene and carries most of the argument with Hughes. She is very good.
And probably the best scene in the movie: Hughes and Hepburn locked in a round of golf. Kate pounds him.
One touching bit of redemption in this "Rosebud with wings" is Hughes' character coercing a Commie publicist not to print photos of the married Spencer Tracy with Hepburn. The publicist is played villainously well by Willem Dafoe (another cameo).
"The Aviator" runs too close to 3 hours for me. Unlike Mike Nichols, Martin Scorcese doesn't know that less is more.
Gary Chew can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.