The Aviator (2004)
After a short prologue, this biopic hurls headlong into two of Howard Hughes’s greatest loves, aviation and filmmaking. Like the machinegun fire of Hell’s Angels biplanes, it’s a rat-a-tat opening that barely pauses to take a breath. Away from these pursuits however, the film lags when it delves into the tycoon’s personal life. It is during these scenes that the film becomes, somewhat paradoxically, passionless.
This is despite some solid performances from the all-star cast. Leonardo DiCaprio, who seemed an odd choice for the title role, is fine as the brilliant young man waging a losing battle against his madness. Yet despite the tragedy of his plight, the depiction of his obsessive compulsive behaviour and irrational fear of germs elicits little sympathy. As with Cate Blancett’s marvellous turn as Katharine Hepburn, it is a showy performance that one can admire but find difficult to invest in emotionally. Like the glitzy parties they attend, there is more show in this movie than substance.
Nevertheless, there are many things to marvel at (the flying scenes are genuinely thrilling), yet the sum of this film's parts are less than its’ whole. It’s as if Scorsese’s own meticulous attention to detail prevented him, unlike Hughes, from seeing the big picture.
"Howard Hughes never did the thing with buying the photos of Katharine Hepburn, of her and Spencer Tracy. Instead the intention was the same: he bought her The Philadelphia Story, which she ended up doing on stage, and inevitably got her an Academy Award after they broke up. The intention was still there. He still loved her, he still cared about her as a person, and still did something like that for her."
Movie depicts Katharine Hepburn leaving Howard Hughes for Spencer Tracy. In fact, their relationship had ended long before the two stars met.