Feb 20, 2012

[Movies] Hugo (2011)

I was initially surprised with some of the Oscar buzz around this particular movie. At first glance it just seemed like another quirky little family movie that just happened to somehow mange getting Martin Scorsese the director. The trailer was interesting but throwing in the 3D card had me wary - I've repeatedly expressed my displeasure with 3D movies in general after all.

But given the strong buzz and the fact that the movie was getting rather limited screen time in local theaters despite this being its opening weekend, Tobie, Prince and I found ourselves watching this particular movie as our very first movie date. I suppose it made sense to what a family-oriented movie as our first given we do consider ourselves as a very special family in our own right.

And this was a rather lovely movie indeed. Beyond the French setting, even the movie felt like it was somehow meant to be French in style. And I suppose that comes naturally to any movie with any degree of magical whimsy and wonder set in the "normal" world, especially in a post Amélie movie culture.

Hugo is a 2011 3D family movie that could be said to targeted towards children but I feel its core story appeals to a broader audience. It was based on the book The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick. It has already been nominated or 11 Academy Awards including Best Picture and Best Director.

Young Hugo Cabret (Asa Butterfield) is living alone at the Gard du Nord train station in 1931. He used to live with his widowed father (Jude Law), who was a master clockmaker and a very good man. But one day he died in a fire at the museum where he worked. Thus Hugo was taken in by his uncle, who works and lives at the train station until eventually disappearing, thus leaving Hugo alone to tend to the clocks. He does his best to remain out of sight as he slips through hidden passages within the walls, especially in an effort to avoid the the station inspector Gustave (Sacha Baron Cohen), who regularly catches wayward orphans at the station and sends them to the orphanage.

Ben Kingsley at the 2008 Toronto International...
Image via Wikipedia
But he does more than just deal with the station's clocks. He's also determined to finish a project he started with his father - to repair a clockwork automaton that his father had found neglected at the museum. Thus he's been stealing various parts from around the station in order to finally get the machine to work, although it's a challenge without his father's experienced intellect to guide his efforts. But during one of his runs, he is eventually caught by the toy store owner Georges Melies (Ben Kingsley), who takes his notebook with his father's notes and is surprised by the contents. He refuses to return the notebook to Hugo and threatens to burn it if he doesn't leave the toy maker alone. And so Hugo is left with the problem of trying to figure out how to get his notebook back, repair the automaton and perhaps find a last message from his dead father.

Asa Butterfield was an interesting casting choice for Hugo. While at times his acting falls a tad flat, he certainly does carry things well for the most part. Plus he has those deep blue eyes that you can get lost in, which reminds me a lot of a young Elijah Wood. But I'm only talking about the eyes though.

Now Chloë Grace Moretz as Isabelle, Geoges' granddaughter, is brilliant as always. She brings a quiet intensity to her roles - something that was pretty important in this movie as well. And yet this character still feels somewhat different from her other quirky roles, especially how Isabelle generally has a sunnier disposition compared to her other roles. And she certainly presented an interesting contrast to the largely quiet Hugo.

The movie certainly featured a wide variety of veteran talent that surprised me to some extent. Starting with Ben Kingsley in a rather central role, the  movie also had the added talent of Jude Law, Christopher Lee, and Harry Potter talents like Helen McCrory, Frances de la Tour, and Richard Griffiths. They certainly added to the overall beauty of the movie, even if most of them had seemingly minor roles that just fleshed out the stories of life at the station.

And it's because of those many different small stories that there's that natural feel to associate this movie with  Amélie. Whether intentional or not, the movie did create that feeling that Scorsese was trying to capture that same sense of magic and wonder that the movie first made me feel when I watched it so many years ago. But it didn't quite perfectly capture that feeling though, especially in a lot of the silent moments. There was something slightly off in terms of some of the sequences and I wasn't quite sure what pacing they had in mind. Whether it was something lacking on the part of the actors or perhaps the direction, things were close but not consistently there.

Still, it was a wonderful movie with a lot of important messages for different types of viewers. It had a strong message about the importance of family as told through the various life stories of the orphan characters. It had a nod towards the importance of creativity and pursuing your dreams. And a heck of a lot more.

And I'l admit the use of 3D wasn't too distracting in this movie and yet still a decently valuable addition to the movie overall.

Hugo is a good example of how movies can be made with families in mind without overly pandering to children. It merits a very respectable 4.5 classic  Georges Méliès films presented in all their glorious wonder out of a possible 5.

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1 comment:

  1. Akala ko hindi kami aabot ni Sef sa "The Vow" at etong "Hugo" ang iniisip kong panoorin namin. Anyways, natuloy din kami sa "The Vow" so hihintayin ko na lang itong ma-upload ni Jaybob :)