At 169 minutes, 11 minutes short of 3 hours, this
Biographical film with a UK cinema certificate 12A was too long for my
taste. However for we costume lovers the film is first-rate and I'm
pleased to have seen it. Generally it's a very good film and I'm
reviewing this film here because the 1920s and 1930s male and female costume
designs were superbly done.
London born designer Sandy Powell studied theatre design at
London's Central School of Art and made the most of the budget of $2 million
she had to design the costumes for the film The Aviator. She succeeds
in making the costumes look contemporary whilst giving them a look that
transports us to another era as they become believable characters. The
clothes are quite historically accurate and where possible 1940's vintage
fabrics like the rayon for Blanchett's well cut mustard dress were sourced from old
The fashion styles worn in the Aviator are already set to make a big impact on fashion fad
trends in the next
year. The costumes are all glorious in their seemingly authentic
The film stars Leonardo DiCaprio who gives a very good
performance as Howard Hughes the
eccentric billionaire and Cate Blanchett as an excellent Katharine Hepburn.
Other cast members are Kate Beckinsale, Gwen Stefani, Alex Baldwin,
Jude Law and Alan Alda. Alda as the corrupt Senator Brewster is
excellent as the smarmy politician. In brief the film manages to
capture the many facets of the life of Howard Hughes as a young man who is a
pioneer and inventor in both the film and aeroplane world and also a man
fighting against corporate bodies aligned with government. This is all
set against his womanising of various female leads from his film making and
his inability to love fully because of his schizophrenic nature and
his obsessive compulsive disorder phobia about germs.
Martin Scorsese captures every facet of the Hughes
personality from playboy to pioneer to inventor to creative film maker to
mentally confused. DiCaprio has no trouble relaying to us that Hughes
believed if you threw enough money at a project and thought out of the box
you could achieve anything. He was a man made for the twentieth
century and exploiting new ideas to the fullest. By overplaying the
pernickitiness of Hughes in the plane scenes, Scorsese makes his point.
But if I had edited this film, I would have cut out some the
airplane development scenes and those of Hughes in a state of naked angst.
In no way did it add to the film, although one can see how it is intended to
make a structure for the narrative and it succeeds in chipping away at our
own mental health whilst portraying the state of Hughes as he goes downhill
emotionally and withdraws into himself. I also had the feeling that
the aeronautic mechanics of the plane scenes were meant to appeal to men and
little boys. They did not appeal to me or my husband (who's father was
a pilot so I know it to be an area that interests him) and who agreed with
me that it was just tedious at times and in places caused the film to drag.
We wondered how long we really needed to see the phobias of
Hughes endlessly repeated merely to grasp he had an inextinguishable
tormenting mental problem with germs and hygiene. Although horrific,
the plane scene in which Hughes crashes is cleverly done and lends
credibility to his later suffering. Edit about 40 minutes out of
the mid to later stages of the film and it would be a ten out of ten film.
As it is I'd give it 7 out of 10 and one must credit Scorsese for tacking a
huge subject and capturing a flavour of the man and the era. So you
will have to self edit it for there is much in it that is superb.
So to the costume highlights of the film to look out for,
which is frankly why I go to see most films.
The film begins with a highlight on the upbringing of Hughes
around 1914 and surmises how his phobia about germs may have started.
Next we see him filming Hell's Angels in Hollywood in 1927. Hughes
strides about wearing what we come to know as his usual usual flying gear as
the film progresses. This consists of a traditional fair isle V
neck sleeveless knitted tank top in browns and fawns with colour
highlights of turquoise, worn with a flying jacket in natural toast coloured
brown leather and jodhpur flying pants. Variations of this outfit
appear throughout the film and it looks as if this could be a big winner in
the fashion stakes when one considers that the 1930s Brideshead Revisited is
to be remade this year.
Traditional English country gentleman dress is overdue for
revival and its now about 15 years since fair isle knits were really a
fashion force en masse. Hughes and his male contemporaries also
wear the wide shoulder suits of the era with wide 1 to 2 cm pinstripes often
a feature or they wear check suits such as a rusty orange subdued check on
Production designer Dante Ferretti was the creator of the
sumptuous scenes suggesting the Hollywood of the late twenties to the mid
forties. At nightclubs and at premieres we see Hughes alongside
Hollywood starlets such as Jean Harlow, played wonderfully by Gwen Stefani.
A great feature of the film is the Cocoanut(sic) Grove Nightclub and clothes
of the time perfectly translated by costume designer Sandy Powell, to be
slick and appear fast and loose as the dancers shimmy the nights away.
The nightclub scenes and the costume are truly wonderful, yet
to my mind they were almost too perfectly choreographed, too perfectly
attired and too perfectly groomed. No wallflowers and everyone having
a good time, including the singers who give a bizarre quality to the film.
Look out for the art deco touches in the costumes and the use of orchids
The female clothes in the nightclub were magnificent.
Some had art deco diamond motifs, others Cleopatra style necklace and cuffs,
embroidered jewel studded sleeves and hairstyles that emulated the black bob
and bangs of flapper Louise Brooks, who made 24 films between 1925 and 1938.
Back in the outdoors we see Hughes wearing beige close
fitting cable knit sweaters and argyle patterned socks with plus fours.
His shirts were often coloured in the film from turquoise to pink to peach,
and they were teamed with herringbone tweed.
In the 'it's a wrap party' scene look out for the fleeting
glimpse of the carved ice aeroplane and the use of orchids everywhere.
You'll be hard pressed not to notice Gwen Stefani as the wonderful waved
blonde Jean Harlow wearing a cool ice queen look in a slinky silver satin
cowl back dress, with a satin wrap. Orchids are simply everywhere as are
pearls, fur wraps and art deco diamond earrings. It's truly a visual
feast for the senses for fashion lovers.
Later we see Hughes in long term relationships with Katherine
Hepburn (Cate Blanchett) and also Ava Gardner (Kate Beckinsale) and
Blanchett's everyday outfits are so translatable into mass fashion items
because they are so very wearable. With her hair red she wears a well
cut cream blazer, over rich brown trousers, a rich brown blouse with
pinhead spots and mother of pearl contrast buttons on the blouse that
sparkle and glow. The trousers are beautifully cut, like good Oxford
bags and throughout the film she wears trousers with this same cut, that
seems to streamline her shape and cry out elegance. In the golfing
scene she looks the epitome of a woman of class, at ease with her clothing
and her look.
By the 1935 scenes I noticed fur was still everywhere as were
rusty colours, freckles, clutch envelope bags, blouson jackets and tree bark
crepe satin fabrics. There were also diagonal striped or diamond
checked ties, round sunglasses, V neck sleeveless sweaters and Donegal tweed
One coat with an oyster peach contrast lining was a lush
wrap, another had embroidered panels on the coat fronts and many dresses had
cowl backs. Colours ranged from mustardy greens to turquoises to
tomato reds set against rich cherry reds.
Look out for Ava Gardner's red
Spotted blouses featured as did more Oxford bag
trousers, clutch bags, interesting platform shoes with multi coloured
bandings and outfits mostly worn with contrast gloves, such as red gloves
with a black outfit.
Finally for the hair there were hair
ornaments and corsages all worn with beaded revers and circular jewelled
collars. Marvellous. Go see this film just for the rich
variety of the costume.
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