Leonardo DiCaprio as Howard Hughes
Cate Blanchett as Katharine Hepburn
Kate Beckinsale as Ava Gardner
John C. Reilly as Noah Dietrich
Alec Baldwin as Juan Trippe
Alan Alda as Sen. Ralph Owen Brewster
Ian Holm as Professor Fitz
Danny Huston as Jack Frye
Gwen Stefani as Jean Harlow
Jude Law as Errol Flynn
Adam Scott as Johnny Meyer
Matt Ross as Glenn Odekirk
Kelli Garner as Faith Domergue
Frances Conroy as Mrs. Hepburn
Brent Spiner as Robert Gross
Howard Hughes was one of the world’s most intriguing people. He lived a life filled with the glamor of Hollywood, industrial achievements, and madness. Director Martin Scorsese paints a fantastic picture of Hughes, and Leonardo DiCaprio brings that picture to life. While DiCaprio does not have the commanding physical stature that Hughes had, he does have the same raw presence. Leonardo anchors the movie solidly, whether he is the dashing Hollywood playboy Hughes or the reclusive unwashed paranoid Hughes. The roll requires a lot from DiCaprio, and he delivers it.
What gives DiCaprio the freedom to range through the different personalities is the star-filled supporting cast. Alan Alda (Sen. Ralph Owen Brewster) and Alec Baldwin (Juan Trippe) are solid rivals to Hughes’ corporate endeavors. However, only Cate Blanchett’s Katharine Hepburn is able to steal the screen from DiCaprio. Blanchett plays Hepburn as larger than life and comes across great on screen.
Hughes’ life was filled with excess, he was a perfectionist that never did anything halfway. Scorsese is living up to that legacy with special effects that match the high level of the solid acting. From the dramatic air combat for Hughes’ movie “Hell’s Angels” to the period sets and costuming for the various Hollywood hot spots, the Aviator looks spectacular. The score is by Academy Award winning composer Howard Shore is rich and engrossing, but never overriding the dialog.
The one main drawback to the film is that it ends too soon. Even after three hours on screen, only the first half of Hughes’ adult life has been covered and, as hard as it is to believe, the second half of his life is even more interesting and bizarre than the first half. There are few movies that make the viewer want more after three hours, and this is one of them. The ending itself is abrupt and a bit unexpected, but many things in Hughes’ life were like that so the choice seems logical, if not entirely satisfying.
Who should see this movie? Leonardo DiCaprio fans will be treated to some of his best acting. He is not a pretty boy through most of the movie, but he is captivating. People interested in Hollywood in the thirties, the start of mass aviation, or Howard Hughes will enjoy seeing this take on it. There is action and romance to spare, but if you are looking for a comedy there is very little of that here. The Aviator is a solid movie whose only failing is that it covers a subject that can not be told in a single movie, making it a very enjoyable film to watch overall.