Focusing on his stunning success in the '20s, '30s and '40s as a designer of aircraft, producer of films and romancer of women, "The Aviator"--reflecting Hughes' fantastic vision of the world with a theatrical lighting design and a sepia color palette accented by pinks and blues--portrays a man who struggles his whole life with the neuroses that eventually overwhelm him. As Hughes, Leonardo DiCaprio possesses the boyish enthusiasm of a teenager, the poise of a successful entrepreneur and the edge of a man ravaged by interminable hours and anxiety. What begins as a nervous tic evolves into twitches and convulsions and the pathological repetition of certain phrases. DiCaprio inhabits a man who battles madness with every cell of his being.
A surfeit of stellar performances are often uproariously funny, from Kate Beckinsale, Alec Baldwin, Ian Holm, Alan Alda, Jude Law, John C. Reilly--one can't even name them all. But Cate Blanchett very nearly takes over the film as Katharine Hepburn, perfectly capturing the first lady of cinema's breezy demeanor and signature growl in addition to bearing a striking resemblance. It's a caricature whose familiarity initially sparks titters but gradually evolves into a nuanced inhabitation of a regal woman who feigns apathy at her fading fame and evades vulnerability by always being on. Starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Cate Blanchett, Kate Beckinsale, John C. Reilly, Alan Alda, Alec Baldwin, Gwen Stafani and Jude Law. Directed by Martin Scorsese. Written by John Logan. Produced by Michael Mann, Sandy Climan, Graham King and Charles Evans Jr. A Miramax release. Drama. Rated PG-13 for thematic elements, sexual content, nudity, language and a crash sequence. Running time: 170 min