Directed by: Martin Scorsese
Premise: A biopic of filmmaker and aviator Howard Hughes (Leonardo DiCaprio).
What Works: DiCaprio’s performance is very strong and he is able to bring the many layers of Howard Hughes’ personality to the screen. The film successfully cuts between different aspects of Hughes’ life, including his aviation experience, his love life, his obsessive compulsive disorder, and his status as a celebrity. Alec Baldwin is very effective as a Juan Trippe, the owner of Pan Am, and plays the role with both an understated menace and a genteel quality that makes him charming but threatening.
What Doesn’t: The film has trouble finding a direction and the structure fractures in ways that makes it feel like three separate films, starting with Hughes’ filmmaking efforts, his troubles with obsessive compulsive disorder, and his trials with congress and Pan Am. These parts do not entirely connect. The ending of the film fails to bring these narrative strands to any discernible conclusion and that is very unsatisfying.
Bottom Line: The Aviator is not Scorsese’s best work. It does have tremendous scope and ambition as it takes on one of the most mysterious figures in American history but in the end it is never able to shed any significant new light on the life and times of Howard Hughes.
Episode: #41 (February 27, 2005)