The Aviator Review
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It takes a pretty attention-grabbing, action-packed movie to keep a crowd’s interest through 170 whole minutes in uncomfortable movie theater seats. The Lord of the Rings movies could pull it off. The Aviator, however, couldn’t.

Leonardo DiCaprio stars in the lengthy biopic of aviator / filmmaker / womanizer / recluse Howard Hughes—which, despite its length, only covers about 15 years of Hughes’ life, from the late ‘20s through the early ‘40s. When the film begins, the wealthy young Hughes, who inherited his father’s Houston tool business, has moved to California to begin his filmmaking career, and he’s working on the film, Hell’s Angels (1930), which took three years—and over $3 million—to produce.

As the film progresses, viewers see Hughes’ obsessions with filmmaking, aviation, and women. Though he continues to lose money, Hughes continues to make advances in both film and aviation—standing up to film censorship committees and designing faster planes (which he often tested—and crashed—himself). And though he continues to sink deeper into paranoia and obsessive-compulsive behavior, Hughes continues to win over the biggest starlets in Hollywood—including Jean Harlow (Gwen Stefani), Katharine Hepburn (Cate Blanchett), and Ava Gardner (Kate Beckinsale).

It’s difficult to summarize an almost-three-hour movie in just a couple of paragraphs—and it’s especially difficult to summarize this film, since it covers a number of areas of Hughes’ life, though very few are covered extensively. Hughes was obviously a fascinating, multi-faceted man, and this film tried to do too much—but ended up doing too little. In three hours, viewers are given glimpses of Hughes’ life that are enough to pique their interest without being enough to really explain anything. We’re given only a brief, perplexing scene from his childhood—which, apparently, is supposed to explain his behavior. We see short scenes with the various women in his life (most notably with Hepburn), with his enemies, with his employees, with his planes. But after it was over, I didn’t really feel like I knew a lot more about Howard Hughes’s life—nor did I feel that I really understood much of it.

This film does definitely have its high points. Cate Blanchett gives a magnificent performance as the eccentric Hepburn. Some of the aviation scenes (though computer-generated) are breath taking and almost IMAX-like. And DiCaprio does an impressive job in this demanding role—though I didn’t feel like he was the right man for the job (do what you will to poor Leo, and he’ll still look like a fourteen-year-old).

On the other hand, however, the film lacks focus. As I said earlier, the filmmakers tried to show all of Hughes’ relationships and all of his interests and eccentricities, making it long and jumbled and, at times, boring. Some moments in the film were extremely quiet, making it impossible for me not to hear all the fidgeting around me (not to mention the yawns of the guy behind me). A number of people in the theater walked out—and the rest just fidgeted restlessly until it ended.

Had The Aviator been more focused, it could have been less complicated—not to mention an hour shorter—and it would have been much easier to sit through. And I can only hope that the special features on the DVD will help to tell Hughes’ story better.

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