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:: The Aviator

It has all the trappings of a great story. The tale of an orphaned youth, an attractive, intelligent and daredevil millionaire who declared he was going to be the world’s richest man. At the prime of his life in some of the most glamorous American era’s the 20’s to the 40’s he became a pioneer in two of the most glamorous American industries, both aviation and filmmaking, all whilst being romantically linked with glamorous American screen legends Ava Gardner, Bette Davis, Ginger Rogers and Rita Hayworth. Then, as nature would have it, at the prime of his life, under the pressures he had placed upon himself intellectually, creatively and financially, the disorder that had been lingering on the outskirts of his mind came crashing to the fore, triggered by the loss of the true love of his life to another, Katherine Hepburn.

Leonardo DiCaprio had read a biography on Howard Hughes as a young adult, and became fixated on creating a film about the early life of the man, rather than as others had done before; his eventual descent into madness. Returning to a form not seen since the Basketball Diaries, DiCaprio demonstrates that he is still capable of portraying a layered and complex character with greater emotional depth than lavish declarations of forbidden love executed with a requisitely furrowed brow. With support from actresses such as Cate Blanchett as Katherine Hepburn and Kate Beckinsale as Ava Gardner, the cast although initially all a bit over the top regardless of the larger than life characters they are playing, gradually settle into their own momentum.

The Aviator is directed by another Hollywood legend, Martin Scorsese, creator of Raging Bull, Goodfellas, Cape Fear, Taxi Driver, The Age of Innocence and Gangs of New York just to name a few of the many films to his name. The film is magnificently shot in parts, the use of both dramatic lighting and vibrant colour combined with beautifully executed montages display Scorsese’s firm grasp of techniques ideally suited to a film about a filmmaker, who himself created such Hollywood classics as Hell’s Angels and Scarface.

However, if there is one thing that a three-hour film has to do, that is to nail the ending. The indulgences the filmmakers and actors succumbed to in various parts of The Aviator could have been entirely forgiven if the ending had been done well, but unfortunately, as my friend declared as we left the cinema, it fell distinctly into the category of pop culture Freud.

I was reminded of the Simpson’s episode where Ned Flanders loses his mind and checks himself into Calmwood Mental Hospital. After his doctors suggest that he suppresses all of his angry feelings, Ned rants momentarily about how he dislikes Post Offices and then offhandedly comments that he hated his parents as they were no good beatniks. At which point his doctors pronounce him cured. The ending to the Aviator is not much different but without the requisite element of satire.

However, despite this, with the Oscars fast approaching and the cast and crew credentials the film has to its name, there is no doubting that enough golden statues that would have once put a smile on Hughes’s face are going to head its way.