Monday, March 19, 2012

'Hugo' is heartwarming. Movie Review.

I am a huge fan of Martin Scorcese. I liked 'The Aviator',  loved 'The Departed' and was blown away with 'Shutter Island'. And maybe it's just a coincidence that all the three films starred Leonardo DiCaprio for who m my respect has grown ever since his role of Howard Hughes in 'The Aviator'. 

But then 'Hugo' is not a typical Scorcese film. 

I had heard a lot about the movie when almost all the critics said that it SHOULD win the Oscar for Best Picture but it WOULD lose to 'The Artist' (and all of them proved right!) but never cared to find out what it was about. Also at that time the focus of popular press was largely on 'The Artist' due to its unconventional style and story and to a big extent on George Clooney's 'The Descendants', Brad Pitt's 'Moneyball' and Spielberg's 'Warhorse'. 

'Hugo' is a semi-biopic. It tells the story of one of the pioneers of early cinema and inventor of Special Effects, French producer, director, actor Georges Méliès (pronouced Melez) through the story of an orphan boy living on a railway station.

After the death of his expert watchmaker father (Jude Law) in a museum fire, young Hugo Cabret (Asa Butterfield) is taken by an uncle to live and work with him as a clock keeper on Paris Railway Station. Apart from living in the clock towers, winding the clocks and stealing food to live, Hugo has to fix a humanoid automaton, which his father found in the museum. He is caught stealing from a toy store by its owner who takes his notebook containing drawings of the automaton and its parts. Hugo pleads with the owner to return his notebook but he declines. He is helped by owner's Goddaughter Isabelle in his quest and he returns favor by introducing her to world of movies. He shows her the automaton and reveals to her the reason of his efforts to fix it.  And then together they find something that reveals many secrets and changes many lives. 

Now why is Hugo so desperate to get back the notebook, what is the mystery of automaton and who is the toy store owner form the crux of the story.

The film won the Academy Awards for Best Art Direction, Best Cinematography, Best Sound Editing, Best Sound Mixing and Best Visual Effects and I wonder why Howard Shore didn't win the award for best Musical Score! It is his beautiful and lilting score which brings that cozy and heartwarming feel to the story even though it is set on a buzzing railway station.

It's a period film and hence the look is obviously vintage but still contributing to atmospherics is Robert Richardson's cinematography which once again gives a soft feel to surroundings. The scenes of Hugo jumping across, sliding down or climbing up the stairs with huge gears, dials and wheels whirring about mechanically are spectacular.

Asa Butterfield as 12 year old Hugo Cabret is very believable. He doesn't try to evoke any sympathy as an orphan trying to make his ends meet while managing to stay out of the clutches of Station Inspector. Chloë Grace Moretz as Isabelle plays a copybook 'supporting character' who helps Hugo in his pursuit while risking the wrath of her Godmother Mama Jeanne (played by Helen McCrory, better known as Narcissa Malfoy in Harry Potter series. Also to be seen from Harry Potter are Uncle Dursley (Richard Griffiths) and Frances De La Tour who played Madame Maxime in Harry Potter and Goblet of Fire!)

But old Ben Kingsley takes the centerstage when it comes to acting honors. He plays a grumpy toy store owner who has a long kept secret behind him. (This is all I can say without giving out the crux of the film!)

I am sucker for movies. And this is a movie ABOUT movies which makes it even more endearing for me. As I said this is a not a typical Scorcese film but it has to be his most endearing movie, one which will bring smile to your face.
Absolutely must watch.