The Aviator is one of those films I wish I had made. It oozes such sophisticated, old Hollywood charm that I find it difficult to resist; and it's not like I want to resist it anyhow. It's so well made, technically and otherwise, that I love to praise it. It was bound to show up here sooner or later, though it's particularly difficult finding just one scene to talk about. But, I'll pick one... A few minutes before this scene actually begins, Howard brings Katharine Hepburn to the Coconut Grove. It's a night out on the town, in theory at least. The scene in question surrounds the arrival of Hughes’ press agent to the table with Errol Flynn (an excellent cameo from Jude Law). Who doesn't love Hollywood banter?
I always love that shot of the irrepressibly happy band. The song Happy Feet really does make you want to get up and dance, even if the lead singer looks a bit manic, but more on that later.
You have to appreciate the attention to set design that occurs here. It's just brilliant to watch.
We see Kate looking sweetly at Hughes before the spell is broken.
Cate looks only slightly like Kate, and yet she is Kate completely. Sure, it’s like Kate on steroids – but I have a feeling that the real Kate was like Kate on steroids. Cate is very Tracy Lords in her affectations here - imperious, iron maiden and what not.
There comes Mr. Meyer, and isn’t that shot lovely? Sure, it was snubbed a host of other prize but at least the excellent art direction was remembered.
HOWARD: “Kate, this is Johnny Meyer. I suppose you could call him my press agent.”
JOHNNY: “Pleased to meet you. Loved you in Alice Adams.”KATE: “You’re too kind.”
Kate is so gracious, even when she’s not being gracious. I get the striking feeling that she feels an urge to roll her eyes at Meyers words. (And Cate does look too old for Alice Adams, but I nitpick.)
HOWARD: “I’m sure you know Errol, right?KATE: “Mr. Flynn, yes.”
I’ve already praised Jude’s work effusively; I really do love him here. As much as I admire DiCaprio I like Jude Law even more – even though he doesn’t do as much work as I would like him to do at the moment. The pairing of him with Cate (even if momentarily) is just a delight. I demand a rematch.
ERROL: “Kate, Kate of the clench-jawed Hepburns. Enchanting as always.”
Jude comes across as such a rake (but a charming one) – which is how he should. He’s the perfect actor to come in and steal the show in under five minutes. Remind me again why this wide (and talented) ensemble lost the SAG award to a film that centred on four thespians?
ERROL: “You should use Lux on your hands, by the way. I do.”
If pushed I’d probably call that bit my favourite part of Jude’s. It’s so thoroughly incidental and yet strikingly insensitive. Doesn’t he realise he’s just insinuated that her hands are not soft? What makes it better is Cate’s reaction…there is that half smile - and she looks down, only slightly...and then she ponders, for a moment...
I know most think Cate won her Oscar for being loud and brash, but it’s the softer moments where she says little or nothing that impress me me. Kate (the real one) has been described as a self-conscious beauty and Cate taps into that. She looks regal, but she’s not completely at ease.
I love how she looks across at Howard there. She’s already trying to start the telepathy: get me out of here, I’m an Oscar winner (unlike, Mr. Flynn, ahem).
JOHNNY: “You and Howard ought to cook up a picture. Co-star with Errol. I could sell that in spades. That would be marvellous. Howard?”
While Johnny is giving his lofty ideas (but that would have been a nice movie, though, no?) Errol has gone across to steal a chair from a nearby table – this will be important onwards.
I love the look on the man’s face.
Kate, but of course, is not sold on teaming up with Errol. She heads into a lovely bit of in-joke references that I greatly appreciate. It was not match for the entire winner, but Logan's screenplay is poorly underrated. Taut, funny, and even sarcastic at times - especially when Kate is front and centre.
KATE: “I think not. Don’t you read Variety, Mr. Meyer. Well, I’m box-office poison. I’m on the outs, the skids, the doldrums. Washed-up, day-old fish not worth the eating, so they tell me.”
I went a little overboard with the images but with Cate/Kate it’s an obsession. I love physicality of the performance; now she’s evoking memories of Hepburn circa Susan Vance. Certainly, she is not Kate but I still can’t help being invested in the performance. She is so in character, but yet she’s not overly technical about all the character tics.
ERROL: “Hell with them. Hell with them. Soulless pricks to man, right?”
Howard seems completely out of the loop here.
ERROL: “Johnny tells me you’re thinking of doing a Western, of all goddamn things.”
That uncomfortable pause never fails to make me chuckle, even if must try to look for subtext. Is he really deaf?
And don’t those two look lovely together above?
KATE: “Are you making a Western, Howard?”
HOWARD: “Yeah, making a Western. I’m gonna call it The Outlaw.”
JOHNNY: “Yeah, and you know what it’s about? S-E-X. It’s all about S-E-X.
Honestly, isn't Adam Scott just on point here? Sure, we know him for his comedy bit - but not this type of comedy. Why does he spell out the word? His take on the officious grease ball is just another example of the brilliant cast working in superlatives.
HOWARD: “It’s a Western.”
DiCaprio such a good job of making Howard particularly loopy, though he’s never stupid. S
ERROL: “You can’t have fornication in a Western. It isn’t done.”
JOHNNY: “It’s not real sex, it’s movie sex. What Scarface did for the gangster picture, The Outlaw will do for the Western. Put the sex and blood and guts up there on the screen.”
Oh how times have changed, I’m so thinking of Scorsese’s bloody gangsters and Eastwood’s westerns. Apparently you can have fornication anywhere now. Kudos to modernisation. Ha.
The food has been delivered and yet these buffoons are here. I love Kate's over-excitement at the arrival. She's trying to send a message. Obviously
ERROL: “Have you seen my cigarettes?”
Another random bit of line-reading there. Jude is thoroughly in character he’s not even trying - he’s just there being awesome.
KATE: “Don’t mind us.”
You can’t forget her when she’s there – she ensures that. It really must be annoying getting your first date (well second, technically) crashed by a pair of boors.
WAITER: “New York cut steak, 12 peas, bottle of milk with the cap on.”
I will say that dinner looks unappetising to me…and milk?
JOHNNY: “You can’t afford your own cigarettes?”
ERROL: “Jack has all my money.”
KATE: “I hope your food isn’t getting cold at your table somewhere or something.”JOHNNY: “No, no. We’re here all night. Don’t worry.”
There is one of the most insincere smiles – Cate’s so good with the expressions.
All the while Howard is very intent on attacking that steak.
ERROL: “Now, Howard. If you’re seriously talking about putting carnality back on the silver screen, you must swear to let me in on the casting sessions.”
And Errol Flynn in all his smug entitlement dares to take a pea from Howard’s plate. Howard is schizophrenic, we will remember, so the fact that someone's hand is in his plate exasperates him; he tries to hide it, poorly.
That glare from DiCaprio is brilliant.
ERROL: “I have an eye for talent.”
Kate’s look at Howard is another example of her doing so much with so little. She keeps the focus on herself and Howard's mental state even though she’s not leading the scene, and that's not at the forefront at the moment.
Oddly, though, there are still twelve peas remaining…what is Errol eating?
Howard can’t even hear him anymore, he’s so chagrined.
JOHNNY: “You ought to give up prancing in tights to be a talent scout.”
I do appreciate the not-so-subtle allusion to Flynn’s Robin Hood.
JOHNNY: “Catalina. Sounds grand, eh.”
ERROL: “I’ve even managed to coax…the luscious Miss De Havilland and her equally luscious sister to come. Though I fear their mother will insist on coming, to preserve their questionable virtue. We shall assault these twin monuments of pristine Britannic beauty nonetheless.”
Errol really is painted as a crass cad, and you have to love the movie references. So much is going above, though. Cate is once again chanelling Tracy Lords (if looks could kill), and Howard is clearly not enjoying the possibility of Joan and Olivia. He's still to perturbed thinking about this not-quite-missing pea.
ERROL: “What do you say, Howard?”
HOWARD: “Somewhere else. Excuse us.”
Great reaction there from Scott. They're all so in character. And then Kate wins a prize for best use of appropriate bitchiness (said with love).
KATE: “Charmed, gentlemen. Do help yourself to the poached pears. I hear they're divine.”
JOHNNY: “Well. Howard Hughes, ladies and gentlemen.”
How childish, though, throwing a rolled-up napkin?
KATE: “My hero. God, all that Hollywood talk bores me silly. As if there aren't more important things, like Mussolini. Where are we going, by the way?”
She barely gives herself time to breathe, what a chatterbox she is.
KATE: “Do your worst, Mr. Hughes.”