Today I discovered ‘Hugo‘ is an amazing movie for audiences of all ages. Martin Scoresese’s new family adventure has been eagerly anticipated by many, but the premise also confused some film-buffs. Some felt that the overall story and target audience, a family movie that would appeal to kids and adult film-lovers, wouldn’t catch on. Maybe it would be too “kiddy” for an older audience, or would be enjoyable for adults but too complicated for children to understand. Tonight I brought my entire family out to watch ‘Hugo‘ in theaters, and we all left the theater speechless. Every one of us took something different away from the film, but agreed that it was a fantastic piece of cinema that will be cherished for years to come. As Isabelle says in the movie, it’s truly a magical adventure.
My brother Jeremy is ten years old, and a huge fan of the novel the film is based on. He’s read ‘The Invention of Hugo Cabret‘ twice and went into the film with a reader’s critical eye. “I think it was really close to the book, almost exactly the same,” he says. “The book is really good, so you can imagine how the movie would be. The book had a lot of pictures…so you can see how the characters would look. The actors were all almost identical [to the illustrations].”
Next, my sister Amy is 17, and studies film at an art high school. She is very interested in all aspects of movie-making, but unlike Jeremy went into the film not knowing anything about the story. “I didn’t know anything about ‘Hugo‘ when I walked into the theater other than it was a Martin Scorsese movie based off of a children’s book. I left the theater completely blown away.” Amy also enjoyed the themes that were present throughout the movie, that may be a bit over young audience’s heads, but that mature audience-members would appreciate. She says, “It had so many relevant and accessible themes that anyone could relate to and they all came across so subtly in a captivating story. It explored purpose, family, friendship, imagination, loneliness, and I especially loved the focus on the importance of creativity and everyone’s unique experience with creating something of value.”
Lastly, my 55 year old father Steve reminds audiences not to be misled by the fact that the movie is a children’s story on the surface. “Scorsese has crafted every frame with the love and commitment of a precision clock maker,” he says. “Hugo explores dreams, memory, old age, love, friendship, loss, regret, purpose, family, longing, bitterness, and perseverance.” Older audience members can also appreciate the homage to the origins of film-making that are included in ‘Hugo.’ My dad added that he enjoyed the “beautifully layered” aspect of the film that “honored the pioneers of film.” I had the great experience of attending a semester-long film class where I saw classic movies with Charlie Chaplin, and learned about the first films ever made. Children these days will never see movies like ‘Safety First‘ with Harold Lloyd, or the many great films of Méliès, so Scorsese wanted to change that. Did that small history lesson cause children to be confused? According to Jeremy, no, and I agree. I think that many film pundits underestimate the intelligence of young kids. The ten-year-old says, “I think a lot of other kids my age would like it because of all the suspense, and you don’t want to leave because of all the action. It pulls you in, you don’t want to stop watching! The station inspector guy (Sacha Baren Cohen) was really really good actor, because the whole movie you hate him! He never loses character.”
I agree with my family’s perspective, and I’m 19 years old. One of my favorite aspects of the movie was the performance of Chloe Grace Moretz, who truly shined as quirky, book-smart Isabelle. She had that glowing likability that just radiated from her performance, and I see the comparisons that have been drawn with Audrey Hepburn, from whom she drew some of her inspiration. Asa Butterfield was also believable in his demanding role as Hugo, and in a pivotal moment near the end of the movie when he’s clutching the automaton while being grabbed by the station inspector, he completely blew me away. His performance was so raw, emotional and human, I’ll admit, it made me cry. I was a fan of him before, in ‘The Boy With the Striped Pajamas,’ where he gave a heartfelt performance. Butterfield has had an amazing jump-start to his film career and will become better and better with experience. I’m excited to see what’s next for him! Also, like many others, I loved the comedic relief that Sacha Baren Cohen’s station inspector brought to the movie. Ben Kingsley also shone in his role as Papa Georges, with Helen McCrory also giving a great performance as Mama Jeanne. They were both just so breathtakingly real and emotional. It was obvious that apart from the obvious talent of the actors, Scorsese really worked with them to get a great performance.
In closing, the whimsical vibe, cinematography, layered story, and fantastic acting in ‘Hugo‘ just draws you in, which was supplemented by the creative use of 3D technology. Overall, the movie is a fantastic escapist experience that truly is Scorsese’s love letter to the pioneers of past film-makers, made using the most modern technologies available today. I believe it will become a classic that is loved for many years to come, and everyone should go out and see it this Thanksgiving holiday with their families. It is my favorite film of the year. 5/5
Once upon a time, I met a boy, named Hugo Cabret. He searched to find a secret message. Now that message is his way…all the way home.” - Hugo (2011)