I despise, on a pretty consistent basis, the “masses.” I ESPECIALLY hate the crap movies they love – just look at the box office any day of the week and you’ll know what I’m talking about (this week’s atrocities: The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn, part 1 and Adam Sandler’s latest bowel movement, Jack and Jill). Thankfully, there are always films sprinkled in there that are geared for smaller audiences. And then there’s Martin Scorsese’s latest effort, Hugo.
Hugo is not in any way, shape, or form, for the “masses.” I can imagine the attention-defecit, texting, idiots of today pretty much walking out of this film. Which makes me hate society and mankind even more than I already do, because Hugo is a really beautiful, touching, and seriously well-made film.
Asa Butterfield (who was in another astoundingly good – not to mention devastating – film, The Boy in the Striped Pajamas – which should be required viewing, in my opinion) is little Hugo Cabret, an orphan in 1930s Paris who lives in the walls of a train station managing the clocks, and is constantly struggling to feed himself and stay away from the Station Inspector, who loves shipping orphans off to the clink. Along the way, he befriends another child, Isabelle, the equally mesmerizing and wonderful Chloe Grace Moretz, and the two embark on a sort of adventure to discover the past secrets of Isabelle’s guardian Papa Georges (Ben Kingsley), whose past is linked to Hugo’s. Along the way, the story touches on universal themes of love, loss, following your dreams, fixing yourself and others who are “broken”, and finally, becomes pretty much a history lesson on the origins of film.
Hugo is staggeringly beautiful. The 3D was very well-done, both an all-encompassing, immersive experience that’s still subtle – things are not usually popping out at you, but it’s one of those where you literally feel INSIDE the movie. The entire color scheme is enchanting – blues, bronzes, golds – it is terribly gorgeous to behold. I think Scorsese proved that he is a very adept 3D filmmaker.
The cast is total aces. Ben Kingsley is touching. Butterfield is crazy-awesome as a little pathetic urchin – his eyes just pull off that sad child thing so well. Chloe Grace Morentz pretty much CAN’T do a bad job. She’s like Dakota Fanning, only not in everything and not annoying. She makes me want to have a kid, ’cause maybe it’d be cool, like her. Sacha Baron Cohen is the Station Inspector, and he was mildly annoying and menacing, but that was what was required of his character. It was lovely to see a trio of Harry Potter actors here as well – Helen McCrory, Frances de la Tour, and Richard Griffiths. They play several of the more minor characters who round out the cast of Hugo‘s world.
Overall, I think this film is wasted on American audiences. I realize how pretentious that may sound, but every aspect of this film was clearly painstakingly and lovingly rendered, and the result is a wonderful, special, unique film that will be lost on most people. While it’s certainly suitable for them, and I certainly HOPE they’d enjoy something this smart and touching, I can’t FATHOM a child sitting through this. It’s long (as most Scorsese pics are), and paced much slower than any other family-film I’ve ever seen. I’d like to say if they “gave it a chance” they’d enjoy it, but I know many, MANY people who would not enjoy this film. It’s a love letter to cinema, purely for those who would like to write their own love letter to the medium (or to Scorsese). All that said, I desperately love movies, and I really enjoyed Hugo. It’s the kind of movie I want to recommend, but I’d have to know you, and what you like, first.