I saw Martin Scorsese’s new movie in large part because of John Podhoretz’s rave review. He begins:
How many rhapsodic adjectives can be summoned up to describe Hugo, Martin Scorsese’s new movie in 3D? Well, perfect comes to mind, which is saying something about a film that runs two hours and seven minutes. As I think back over it, there’s not a second that seems out of place, not a performance I would trade, not a bum note in the score, not a shot wrongly conceived.
I’m afraid I was disappointed.
The film begins magically and you can tell it is a true labor of love. The whole thing is beautiful. The child actors are excellent. Sasha Baron Cohen flirts with greatness. But for all the loving detail and the directorial confidence, the whole thing strikes me as . . . self-indulgent.
Given Scorsese’s passion for film, the history of film and the preservation of old movies, you can see why he loved the subject matter so much — and it shows. But his love for the subject eventually overpowers the story. It moves away from Hugo and toward a very high-end and visually impressive lecture about the glories of cinema. It felt, to me at least, very manipulative and forced, as if the important part of the film wasn’t the name in the title at all. (Scorsese seems to be developing a problem with shoving his messages down the viewer’s throat. Recall that rat-walk in the final frames of The Departed).
I took my daughter — who simply loves movies — and she and (it seemed to me) the other kids in the audience liked it but felt like they were brought to a grown-up movie kids were supposed to like. And that’s why I think it appeals to so many critics. It’s a “childrens’ movie” aimed at adult cinéastes nostalgic about what movies meant to them when they were kids.
It’s also too long.