HUGO

A film by Martin Scorsese


Some people think that Martin Scorsese is one of our fine directors.  For me the jury is still out.  Good Fellas was well enough done to establish him as a professional, but the kind of creative director whose pictures you have to see.  Not yet.

Hugo does fill the bill in some ways.  It has its charm and is visually quite interesting.  But the story is fairly formulaic.  The boy, Hugo, is believably intense, but the reason for that intensity didn’t fly with me.  Why was he so secretive?  Is just one of the questions that bothered me. 

Sascha Baron Cohen is an interesting actor.  He can play a range of characters well, and the tight-assed railroad security constable he is here comes uncomfortably to life as we realize how mean he is.  In fact the shopkeeper is meaner than he should be as well, and only after we see how the plot goes do we understand that love softens everyone and when frustration is released, one can relax.  Really?  I did not know that!

So, if you are going to retell familiar themes give us more than devices, give us relationships that ring true.  It seems to me as if Scorsese got caught between trying to direct well and telling a story.  You have to do both.  A well-directed film, which this mostly is, without a well-crafted story, which this mostly isn’t, ultimately fails.  Of the Oscar contenders for best film, the two I saw, this one and Steven Spielberg’s Warhorse, were not worthy.  The Artist, the black and white silent film which ultimately won, I did not see.  I spoke with two colleagues who did see The Artist and they found it interesting but not particularly Oscar-worthy either.  So, even in a weak year someone has to win.

 

Hugo is worth renting when it is released, but not the nine or ten bucks it will cost you at the box office.

 

Good thing Hugo didn’t.  It just didn’t have what it takes.