At the very beginning of this film, director Martin Scorsese shows us a scene between the young Howard Hughes and his mother. Hughes's mother is bathing him and washes his penis in a rather creepy way. It's a very short scene and apparently we're supposed to believe that it was this penis washing that prompted Hughes's bizarre behavior as an adult.
Hughes's mother's penis-playing ostensibly produced obsessive-compulsive disorder in Hughes. He liked to wash his hands a lot. Frankly, I know quite a few people who wash their hands a lot and not all of them have penises, so I think the connection is on a bit of shaky ground.
Hughes (Leonardo DiCaprio) was known as the richest man in the world, a man who dated many beautiful women and created a big plane out of wood that flew for about nine seconds. Scorsese ends the movie with this feat, as though it was somehow important. Why is it that getting a big, wooden plane a few feet off the ground is such a big deal other than the fact that nobody said it could be done and Hughes did it? I'm sure there are plenty of things in this world that people say can't be done, like shoving a softball up one's ass, but I bet somebody has probably done it. It's just that that person wasn't the richest man in the world so nobody really paid him much attention.
There are three principal female relationships for Hughes as far as Scorsese is concerned. He focuses on Katharine Hepburn (Cate Blanchett), Ava Gardner (Kate Beckinsale), and very briefly, Jean Harlow (Gwen Stefani). In fact, Harlow is little more than a face at one of Hughes's movie premieres. I'm not really sure why the scene is in the movie other than to give Stefani a bit of screen time and possibly appeal to all those people who might not see a Scorsese film but know the name Gwen Stefani.
There are also a ton of other cameos, which all prove distracting. And let's face it, any movie with Alec Baldwin is automatically annoying. Baldwin plays Juan Trippe, president of Pan Am. He and Hughes (who started TWA) battle for most of the film.
"The Aviator" is a lot like The Spruce Goose: long, bulky and barely able to get off the ground.
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