Movie Time: Hugo

Hugo is the story of a young orphan boy living in a Paris train station taking care of the clocks. Hugo wants to repair a marvelous treasure that his late father rescued from a museum. He sets out to finish his father’s work and he observes the lives of those who work in the train station. Hugo also makes friends with a young girl who helps and shares the journey with him

Hugo is based on the book, The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick. It is directed by Martin Scorsese with a screenplay by John Logan. It features performances by Asa Butterfield, Ben Kingsley, Chloe Grace Moretz, Sacha Baron Cohen and Emily Mortimer.

Hugo Poster

image from wikipedia

She Said: Hugo

When I first saw the advertisements for Hugo I wanted to go see it. I thought it looked so lovely and like it would be fun. I also thought it was cool that there was finally a Martin Scorsese movie that I could watch! As the awards season continued I felt that I was still wowed by the visual aspects of the movie but I wasn’t really interested in the story anymore.  I was very surprised to discover that my initial reaction matched my feelings about watching the movie.

The story is not that great. I thought it was really sad and I can’t talk about it too much without giving away big pieces of the plot itself. I found it uninteresting because I didn’t and couldn’t bring myself to care about the characters. I also thought it was really, really slow. I got that Martin Scorsese loved this world and these characters but I just couldn’t make myself. I appreciate that I think I got to see a lot of the little boy inside Martin Scorsese who just loves and loves the movies. But, just because he loved this world didn’t make it easy for me. In fact the fact that I could feel how much he loved this world actually made the film almost uncomfortable to watch. He’s so in love with movies that I almost feel unkind when I’m not as live with their history as he is. And I actually like film making history and some of it was interesting but some of it was really self-indulgent. If you are at all familiar with cinema history or Georges Melies parts of the story will rapidly fall in to place in your mind and then the rest of the movie feels very, very predictable.

The best part of the film was the character Isabelle. She was a great friend to Hugo. Isabelle is exactly the kind of friend that everyone dreams of (smart, encouraging, interested in things, great at sharing and loyal). I feel that at 30 I’m still looking for an Isabelle to be friends with!

I also thought that the film suffered from an absence of humor. I know that Sacha Baron Cohen was supposed to provide a great deal of the comic relief but he really didn’t.  How many times did he make jokes about illegitimate children and cheating wives? And in how many movies must we be subjected to seeing him sitting in a bathtub? I haven’t ever actually seen a movie with him in it before but I remember seeing commercials for that Ricky-Bobby movie and he was doing the same thing. I just thought it was cheap and very unoriginal. He was only okay as the station master because I felt like he did a good job on physicality but he had moments where he could have been any of his other past characters

The acting overall in this movie wasn’t great.  I loved Jude Law’s brief time on screen as Hugo’s father. I think Jude Law is an awesome actor. Emily Mortimer was sweet as Lisette, the flower seller. Chloe Grace Moretz was a lovely and sweet Isabelle but that’s where the good acting work ended.  Asa Butterfield was almost creepy as Hugo. His hollow eyed stare really disturbed me and I couldn’t ever connect or make myself feel sympathy for him. Ben Kinglsey was so over the top intense that watching him was frustrating and exhausting.

Hugo is a very lovely film in the technical and visual sense. I appreciate the time and effort that everyone spent to create and execute such a detailed world for the move to exist in. However, just because it was impressive technically didn’t make it a good movie. I liked seeing the trains and clocks- once or twice. I thought that the segments about movies themselves were beautiful and interesting. The problem for me was that this world felt hollow. It was all appearance and no substance. I love Paris! I have never been there but it’s my favorite city in the world! And I was really sad because I felt it didn’t show off the city I love. I love movies that highlight how beautiful and special it is but I feel like this movie only existed here because of the historical aspect. It could have really taken place in any city in Europe for all that it truly utilized the awesomeness of Paris.

This movie lay in our home for almost a month before we finally watched it.  I was really disappointed. I appreciate that it’s not violent or dirty. I’m glad that some people find it exciting because it is a visually rich and complex movie. I watched a week ago and I still don’t know what it’s about. I wish that I could understand what all the critics and fans of this movie love about it. I need to understand a film to love it. I need to want to soak in the world and learn from the characters. I’m afraid that the only feeling I have now that I’m done with this movie is relief.

Rating- 2

He Said: Hugo

I was really excited to see Hugo.  I used to really like Martin Scorsese films, but wouldn’t watch them now due to content.  I have always thought he was a very skilled storyteller when it came to film.  So when I heard he was doing a film about a child in a train station in 3D, I couldn’t wait.  I won’t keep you in suspense, I fell asleep a lot during this movie, and had to go to Wikipedia before reading this to make sure I had gotten the plot right.  When I fall asleep watching a movie, it isn’t always the movie’s fault, but I do blame Hugo quite highly this time out.

Hugo isn’t actually about the title character at all.  It’s more a love letter to early filmmaker Georges Melies.  He even appears as a prominent character in the movie.  One particular plot point even revolved around the preservation of his works.  Really, Marty?  You’re now stumping for AFI’s preservation/restoration efforts in your movies?  There’s an interesting parallel here between Melies and Scorsese.  Both are people who fell in love with new technologies, and just had to share them with the world.  Melies was enamored with special effects in general, and Scorsese with 3D filming.  Having watched this movie at home, I can’t say anything about the overall experience of watching this movie in 3D, but based on some of the sweeping shots that implied the 3D I’m guessing it was pretty impressive.  Much like Melies, I’m sure many contemporary audiences were wowed by the visuals of Hugo.  And the Goodfellas director really is stretching here.  There’s no intense violence, and the color palette is much more vibrant that I’ve ever seen him work with.  He clearly fell in love with this story and you can see him as almost every character.  But also much like Melies, I bet future audiences will see the plot as being overly simplistic.

The acting was pretty good.  Sasha Baron Cohen was at his most entertaining, and least offensive as the station inspector.  He really stole the scenes he was in and really showed a depth that other characters lacked.  His skill with his physical humor was remarkable. His storyline was the best as well.  Asa Butterfield showed the emotions of Hugo Cabret very well, even though the script left him very little to work with.  Of course, neither was acknowledged by the Oscars for their performances.  Other than that, the acting was pretty wooden.  Ben Kingsley was especially bad and unmemorable as Pappa Georges.

Overall, this film was very visually engrossing, but other than that, was not much to watch.  The story seems weird, with steam punk influences that are never really explored or explained.  I really wish I’d just skipped this movie.