Howard Hughes seems to have been quite the character. A multitalented virtuoso of money-making, he ended up being one of the richest men in the first part of the 20th century, rivaling in power other tycoons like W.R. Hearst. And maybe it’s the analogy with the latter that moved Scorsese to create this movie. Once in a while, you are reminded of "Citizen Kane", and it’s not only because of the decor.
The Aviator succeeds in pacing its plot convincingly, allowing the scenes to portray someone who is not "one of us" in a way that makes us feel sympathetic. Despite philandering, despite early symptoms of neurosis (today we’d call it OCD, obsessive compulsive disorder), Howard Hughes is a person we’d be interested to meet.
It’s not all Scorsese’s fault, of course. Leonardo di Caprio is extremely powerful in his rendition of a man too determined to ultimately succeed. The temper tantrums, the manic-depressive nature of the business, love and hatred – all of that erupts out of him on a whim.
The cast as a whole is incredible, a testament to Scorsese’s renown. Cate Blanchett rocks as Katherine Hepburn, whose mannerisms she captures so well, it got her an Oscar in the end. But the rest of them all are such household names, you’d think they’d deserve a better project.
It was amazing to see Kate Beckinsale as Ava Gardner, but Gwen Stefani as Jean Harlow was beyond sensational. The men are astounding, too: Alec Baldwin and his calm and measured Juan Trippe, eternal foe and anticlimax to Hughes; Alan Alda and his sleazy senator Brewster, Ian Holm and his dissheveled Professor Fritz. All of them are a pleasure to see on screen.
So, with all that ambition, I am unhappy to say: it still ain’t no Citizen Kane. Sorry, Martin, it’s just the story of a rich guy…