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Overall Rating

Awesome: 34.91%
Worth A Look35.5%
Average: 15.38%
Pretty Bad: 6.51%
Total Crap: 7.69%

12 reviews, 97 user ratings

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Aviator, The (2004)
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by EricDSnider

"Big, glittery Hollywood entertainment about a crazy guy"
4 stars

It is a dangerous time for "The Aviator" to be released. Many biopics are already in theaters, and "The Aviator," telling the story of full-time billionaire and part-time madman Howard Hughes, is apt to seem exactly like them.

To be honest, it IS a lot like them; biopics have become the new romantic-comedy, the genre where certain things ALWAYS happen, and where you go along with it because hey, it's a biopic. But this one is directed by Martin Scorsese, and while it is far from his best work, it is polished and opulent and clearly the product of a skilled filmmaker. His movies tend to look like they were expensive, but they also tend to look like they needed to be.

It begins, as do most biopics, with a "significant" moment from the subject's childhood: in this case, young Howard being bathed by his mother, who coos about the danger of germs and illness. Bathed at age 9 (or so) by his mother? In a vast, dark room? And being warned against germs? Thus are the seeds of insanity sown.

We skip ahead some years to 1927, when Hughes (in a confident performance by Leonardo DiCaprio), heir to his parents' Texas fortune, has decided he's a filmmaker. He's been shooting "Hell's Angels," a war epic, for a year. He delays for months because he needs for there to be clouds for the airplanes to fly past, in order to give the audience some idea of the planes' speed. He finally gets his clouds and finishes the film, but by then Hollywood has entered the Sound Era. So he reshoots the whole thing for sound. The total cost is some $4 million, an obscene amount in Depression-Era terms.

Hounded and worried by his financial advisor Noah Dietrich (the reliable John C. Reilly), and often abetted by a meteorologist (Ian Holm) upon whom he sometimes foists other duties, Hughes is a larger-than-life figure who dates starlets and wastes money. He has a fascination with aviation, and when TWA doesn't want to build the plane he's designing, he buys TWA. He's the epitome -- perhaps the prototype -- of the frivolous Texas billionaire.

The film is at its best when it focuses on the relationship between Hughes and Katharine Hepburn, played to gorgeous, patrician perfection by Cate Blanchett. Hepburn was known to shower seven times a day, among other obsessions; she could relate, on some level, to the quirks of Howard Hughes. In the film they are a fine pair, tolerating and complementing each other even when his down-home Texas ways don't blend with the mannerisms of her Connecticut family. He's mildly deaf at times (a fact that comes and goes over the course of the film), but he can always hear Katharine.

(As for Cate Blanchett, if this is not the supporting performance of the year, I don't know what is. She captures Katharine Hepburn's beauty, intelligence and mystique magnificently, presenting a character that is not just a fine impersonation but a genuine person, too. If a film is ever made about Ms. Hepburn, here's your star.)

Less compelling is Hughes' subsequent relationship with Ava Gardner (Kate Beckinsale). Perhaps Ava Gardner was simply not as interesting as Katharine Hepburn, or perhaps Kate Beckinsale is no Cate Blanchett. Whatever the case, Gardner barely registers as a real person, much less a person with any connection to Howard Hughes. Watching the film, I constantly wished Hughes would dump Gardner and get back with Hepburn, even though Hepburn was by now in love with Spencer Tracy, and I would certainly never want to break them up. So you see my dilemma.

Scorsese earns his money as a director in a sequence in which Hughes is nearly killed while test-piloting a new plane. The scene is frightening, fiery and superbly assembled, a visceral reminder of Scorsese's decades of practical experience in making movies that affect the viewer.

The rest of the film is eminently watchable and often very entertaining. It benefits from fine supporting performances by Alec Baldwin as Pan-Am chief Juan Trippe (Hughes' main competitor in the airline business) and Alan Alda as the corrupt senator in Pan-Am's pocket, plus spicy tiny performances by the likes of Edward Herrmann, Willem Dafoe, Brent Spiner, Jude Law and Frances Conroy ("Six Feet Under's" Ruth Fisher, here playing Katharine Hepburn's mother like she was born into it).

As Hughes becomes more paranoid and delusional and less able to deal with his obsessive-compulsive disorder, DiCaprio kicks his performance into high gear, bringing out the man's oddities, ambitions and basic humanity all at once. DiCaprio is so youthful-looking that even with a mustache and makeup he never convinces me that Hughes is more than about 20 years old -- but it is a testament to DiCaprio's ability that such matters almost become irrelevant in the final analysis. He gained legions of detractors with "Titanic," and he seems doomed to forever fight against them, but "The Aviator" is strong evidence in his favor, if you give the guy a chance.

The movie is lavish and big, fully meeting the demands of Howard Hughes' lavish, big life. If it fits too easily into the mold of biopics, and if its lengthy running time feels too rambling, well, you overlook that. This is grand Hollywood entertainment in the old-school style, so glistening and dazzling that its flaws are washed away in a sea of glitter.

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originally posted: 01/10/05 18:26:29
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User Comments

9/14/17 morris campbell long but really good 4 stars
1/11/10 Eric Leo did a good job, great movie if you bother to watch 4 stars
12/24/08 Brap YES 5 stars
3/31/07 David Pollastrini All the women in this film are hot! 3 stars
3/07/07 Frank Rountree Good movie, good history lesson! I liked it. 4 stars
2/19/07 Nick Maday I was drawn in and spellbound from the very beginning. 4 stars
1/04/07 Alice I do not understand the ratings.Nothing special, boring by times. 3 stars
11/25/06 Gwen Stefani? Not a bad film, but I watched it in fast-forward so not too long... 3 stars
10/01/06 Charles Tatum Excellent film, DiCaprio finally wins my grudging respect 5 stars
8/05/06 Agent Sands Another riveting Scorsese biopic. Fantastic in all departments. 5 stars
5/27/06 Steve Newman Great film - 30 mins to long - now going to read how true it all was!! 4 stars
3/18/06 MP Bartley Great acting throughout, brilliantly rendered period detail - a fine departure for Scorsese 4 stars
3/12/06 daveyt enjoyable... 4 stars
3/03/06 Tanya Very good 5 stars
1/08/06 Gerry Dunne good story let down by appalling flying scenes 3 stars
12/28/05 John Dog Superb! 5 stars
11/16/05 Quigley Dicaprio's acting is suberb, but it was too long, and I didn't want to see leo naked. ever. 4 stars
11/05/05 mike winger i was exspecting too see kate beckinsale tits 1 stars
10/12/05 Jennifer Free The movie drags on and on. I actually got bored and didn't finish after an hour and a half 2 stars
9/01/05 herkos akhaion Pointless, looks good, but story is poorly told 2 stars
8/30/05 LS Galvin Amazingly acted, beautifully directed, satisfying biopic! 5 stars
8/28/05 D Buckley Leo should have won best actor 4 stars
8/22/05 ES Cate's roll is wasted here, she should have saved it for a hepburn bio-movie, film stinks 2 stars
8/17/05 shadi The Aviator is a great movie! it`s greater than life & DiCaprio is amazing in it! 5 stars
8/13/05 lozita it rocks! 5 stars
8/13/05 Snicklets Outstanding! Held me captive from beginning to end. Leo DiCaprio shines; Cate wonderful. 5 stars
8/13/05 Dr. Video Excellent acting esp by DiCaprio. 5 stars
7/31/05 RK DiCaprio and Blanchett are excellent 4 stars
7/30/05 Dr. Zoidberg Sugarcoated bullshit; watch Marty sell his balls to the PG-13 crowd! 1 stars
7/27/05 Malaka The film was awesome, it's got everything a movie should be, Great 5 stars
7/26/05 Kankasaur Couldn't ask for more excitement and obsession with detail from Hughes himself 5 stars
7/05/05 Ry Great Movie of great man. It's based on a true story, not a made up script you morons. 5 stars
7/04/05 mariann Dull and boring....We turned it off after 30 minutes. 1 stars
6/23/05 Naka Stunning, intelligent, surprisingly good preformance by DiCaprio. I was enthralled. 5 stars
6/15/05 JFK bad music, boring script, average actings, long movie. Not a best film 3 stars
6/13/05 Agent Sands Long live Scorsese. 5 stars
6/07/05 Anthony G Good 4 stars
6/06/05 R.W. Welch Mostly successful, tho the main characters in this opus are impossible to re-create. 4 stars
6/04/05 Denise Gannon i'm sorry but Leo can't act! he's a FACE. very unbelievable acting by most of cast, too. 1 stars
6/04/05 rohit adhikari it is one of the most beautiful movies i have ever seen . it is a must watch 5 stars
6/01/05 Monday Morning Couldn't decide what kind of film it wanted to be, except "long". VERY disappointing. 3 stars
5/28/05 Saab Rocks Borring and long. There's only three minutes of action, and the movie is three hours long! 2 stars
5/26/05 Jake Fasinating and Entertaining 5 stars
5/02/05 dwarzel Academy awards for doing impressions? 4 stars
4/26/05 hp feel good film - got to watch for martin scorsese and leanardo 4 stars
4/16/05 malcolm pleasantly surprised by dicaprio's performance, otherwise, just not that interesting 3 stars
4/11/05 Bing good but too long 3 stars
4/08/05 Lina Correa Very intense film, great acting by DiCaprio 4 stars
3/31/05 Madeira Pure genius. It could kick Million Dollar Baby's ass any day. 5 stars
3/26/05 Denise great 4 stars
3/24/05 Michael Lloyd Scorsese's finest work since Goodfellas 5 stars
3/24/05 dana Gordon A must see on the big screen 4 stars
3/19/05 Green Grenlim has some exciting moments, but a little overlong 4 stars
3/06/05 Bueller A depressing visual feast. 4 stars
3/06/05 Josh Scorses indulges Leo's need for a "sympathetic" character. Overwrought. 3 stars
3/03/05 enid leo is boring, the film focuses exclusively on him, thus the film is boring. 1 stars
3/02/05 David Tsung pretty boring - not martin's best 3 stars
3/02/05 Pickles Leo is a crap actor, you're not watch hughes youre just watching Leo with an accent, boring 1 stars
2/25/05 Phyllis Kunz Fuckinubelieveable that Alec did not win the nomination for best supporting actor. Fuck! 5 stars
2/20/05 lj worth it for cate blanchett alone--she is marvelous as hepburn 4 stars
2/19/05 Captain Craig Terriffic from start to finish. Leaves one wanting more! 5 stars
2/18/05 susee scorsese, inthe way i never pickin 2 stars
2/18/05 Elza Hudson A heap of junk - very boring. 1 stars
2/17/05 Taylor Fladgate Full of depth and great acting. 4 stars
2/14/05 ELI gonna win best pic. 5 stars
2/14/05 Jeanine Price OK 4 stars
2/13/05 dbx Most boring movie I've ever seen. Leo: not an interesting actor, should have had JohnnyDepp 1 stars
2/12/05 Sylvia Belle interesting biography 5 stars
2/04/05 Mirella Rodriguez Fantastic! The acting is right on. 5 stars
2/04/05 Barbara Long A decent movie, Leo is cool. 4 stars
2/04/05 Agent Sands Scorsese's latest opus is impressive, though not up to par with "Bull," "Fellas," or "Dead. 5 stars
2/03/05 Steve Michaud I'll take "lesser" Scorsese over most of the directors out there any day 4 stars
2/01/05 Danita Berg Leo's best. This movie is NOT Titanic. Thank God. 4 stars
2/01/05 Elena this was incredible. i am in awe. 5 stars
1/29/05 Richard Brandt One is impressed by all Hughes accomplished despite an absolutely debilitating disorder 4 stars
1/29/05 Red Sox Still Suck Leo, Marty & Blanchett deserve Oscars for this great movie 5 stars
1/25/05 bob this movie fucking sucked 1 stars
1/24/05 Janet Pokrinchak Screenplay lacks depth and focus. Just never quite gets there & drags in some places. 3 stars
1/23/05 fred flintstone not again its too painful! 1 stars
1/22/05 Rob McKeown I no longer think of him as de-crap-io, worth a look 4 stars
1/21/05 Uncle Phucker Scorsese's hardcoreness is gone but his brilliant filmmaking is not. Acting was well done. 4 stars
1/15/05 Devin Knox worst movie of the year by far 1 stars
1/11/05 Stacey Peachfuzz Some awesome sequences but rather forgettable as a whole. 3 stars
1/11/05 Obi Wan Leo's best Movie!! Great Movie....didn't seem as long 5 stars
1/10/05 Mel Stark Fantastic. A film truely not to be missed 5 stars
1/09/05 Patti m usually prefer art house films but this movie is exceptional! 5 stars
1/08/05 Gizmo It was enjoyable but I honestly expected more. Blanchett was pretty great, though. 3 stars
1/03/05 Movie Lover so long! 3 stars
1/02/05 Nisha the best performance by Mr. Leo Dicaprio 5 stars
12/31/04 ajay it was pleasent... 4 stars
12/31/04 bobbi good, but only covered a few of his accomplishments 4 stars
12/28/04 Obi Wan WOW, WOW,WOW!! I was truly amazed...I'm at a lost for words how great this movie was! 5 stars
12/24/04 Hugh Janus Leo, Marty & Blanchett deserve Oscars for this great movie 5 stars
12/24/04 Raymond Shaw highly enjoyable cinema. DiCaprio is tremendous! Miss Blanchett runs the gamut of emotions! 5 stars
12/17/04 Ray Pretty good 5 stars
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  14-Dec-2004 (PG-13)
  DVD: 24-May-2005

  19-Dec-2004 (12)

  10-Feb-2005 (M)

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