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Running Time:
2 hours, 46 minutes

Rating: PG-13 Parents Strongly Cautioned.

Rating Explanation:
for thematic elements, sexual content, nudity, language and a crash sequence

Jimmy's Buzz Guide Review:
Martin Scorsese proves once again that he knows how to make a rip-roaringly gorgeous-looking, beautifully acted epic.

Additional Info:
DVD Features: Audio commentary with director Martin Scorsese on disc 1; deleted scene, "Howard Tells Ava About His Car Accident"; "A Life Without Limits: The Making of The Aviator; "The Role of Howard Hughes in Aviation History"; History Channel Modern Marvels documentary on Hughes; "The Visual Effects of The Aviator"; "The Affliction of Howard Hughes: Obsessive Compulsive Disorder"; "The Age of Glamour: The Hair and Makeup of The Aviator"; "Costuming The Aviator: The Work of Sandy Powell"; "Constructing The Aviator: The Work of Dante Ferretti"; an evening with Leonardo DiCaprio and Alan Alda; an OCD panel discussion with the cast; photo gallery; "Scoring The Aviator: The Work of Howard Shore"; "The Wainwright Family - Loudon, Rufus, and Martha."

The Aviator
Director Martin Scorsese begins his film with a young mother washing her son in a tub. She is giving him a lecture about the importance of cleanliness and the frightening consequences of the current flu epidemic. This pathetic and prophetic scene explains what will influence much of Hughes' future life. The action cuts to the Cocoanut Grove in Hollywood in 1927 and Howard Hughes (Leonardo DiCaprio) is now the wealthy heir of his family's oil well drill-bit business. He has decided to direct movies. His first film, "Hell's Angels" is full of aerial footage which he spends days and days shooting and reshooting. It is first made as a silent film, but with the advent of talking pictures, he's forced to practically remake it. We then cut to a glamorous Hollywood premiere where Hughes is turned down by Louis B. Mayer, when he tries to borrow some extra cameras for his unfinished film. This is symbolic of the general disrespect he's getting from the other Hollwood moguls. His vast wealth allows him to spend without restraint, and his financial advisor, Noah Dietrich (John C. Reilly) is the man most displeased about it. He soon decides to acquire his own studio, buying RKO, but could this have just been his way of getting dates with beautiful women? Possibly. He often places many sultry beauties under personal contract with his new studio, most notably Jane Russell, who starred in his Hayes Code-breaking "The Outlaw." He not only directed her in her first film, but also designed the bra that would feature her most outsanding assets. But as involved as he was in making movies, none of his women would be able to compete with Hughes' one true love - flying. Working with the chief engineer of Hughes Tools, he constantly pushed the envelope of what airplanes could do. He came up the idea of replacing round headed rivets that held airplane fuselages together, with flush mounted rivets that made his planes fly more aerodynamically. The world would soon follow. We watch Hughes testing his own aerial creations and setting world speed records, a 'round-the-world flight in 1936, the crashing of his cutting-edge XF-11 in Beverly Hills in 1946 and, most famously, test flying the largest plane ever built, the mammoth wooden Spruce Goose whose wing span was greater than a football field. The movie provides a history of these extraordinary achievements with all the excitement and detail that clearly demonstrates Hughes' undeniable genius. Besides his women, his films and his airplanes, the lasting memory we have of Howard Hughes, is his final years, and his hermit-like reclusiveness, a symptom of his increasing mental problems. Sealing himself hermetically from the rest of the world in order to create a germ-free space, he does emerge once to confront a congressional committee led by Senator Owen Brewster (Alan Alda). Brewster's aim was to keep Hughes' TWA airline out of international skies in favor of Pan Am, led by CEO Juan Trippe (Alec Baldwin), Brewster's chief contributor. His appearance before an army of news cameras was the world's final public vision of the temporarily lucid aviator-entrepreneur. Scorsese has brilliantly revealed the developing manifestations of Hughes' mental disorders. In their early stages, only his most intimate friends saw his increasingly compulsive behavior: avoiding shaking hands, wiping off things he thought carried germs, his unending repetition of certain phrases, and finally, shutting himself totally away. Leonardo DiCaprio's assured bravado and focused energy creates a performance that is equally larger than life and tormented. Cate Blanchett somehow manages to overcome a first impression of unintended satire as Katharine Hepburn, with her many mannerisms and vocal characteristics, giving a believable portrait of the unforgettable actress. Alec Baldwin nicely portrays Juan Trippe doing business with his ingenious competitor and revealing his character's avarice behind a facade of good cheer and humor. Alan Alda is also quite good as the mighty Senator finally defeated by Hughes, the feisty target of his congressional abuse. In smaller roles are Kate Beckinsale as Ava Gardner, Jude Law as Errol flynn, Gwen Stefani as Jean Harlow and Edward Herrmann as movie censorship czar Joseph Breen. There is so much story to tell but, somehow Scorsese manages it with dexterity and balance, helped immeasureably by excellent performances, dazzling cinematography, and lavish production design plus Sandy Powell's remarkable period costumes and Howard Shore's rich but never intrusive score.

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