Several things disturb me about this film. I shall start with this chap DiCaprio. DiCaprio simply looks nothing like Howard. His eyes are quite blue and all the women who fell in love with Howard (which was all of the ones he pursued with the exceptions of Jean Simmons, Elizabeth Taylor, Joan Crawford and Ingrid Bergman) commented on his seductive "liquid" deep, sad brown eyes. The director should at least have had the actor wear brown contact lenses. I think this point is important because his Adonis-like appearance wielded considerable influence over both men and women (Both genders fell for him in equal measure). In fact, the director William Desmond Taylor desperately wanted to put Howard in pictures as a leading man, but Howard's interests lay behind the camera instead.
DiCaprio is too young for the gravitas and profundity that was Howard Hughes. Additionally, DiCaprio's portrayal of Howard presents him as brash, gauche and impolite, spouting profanity - the ugly American stereotype, if you will. Howard's mother was an Aristocratic highly refined Victorian lady. Indeed, a true blue blood - one of her relatives was a general in the Civil War, I believe, and she had geneological connections to George Washington etc... She had a prodigious and comprehensive influence on Howard's tastes, values and behaviour. As a result, Howard grew up with the reserve and refinement possessed by men of his class. He was always at pains to be polite and was quiescent and INORDINATELY SHY besides. This is one of the first things about him mentioned by those who knew him. The scene in the picture in the Cocoanut Grove where DiCaprio brazenly invites a cigarette girl up to his hotel room is something Howard would never have done. He would have found it vulgar. Howard was in awe of beautiful women and would always seek out a proper introduction from a third party before approaching a lady he coveted. Even with Faith Domergue: He first met her incidentally when she was accompanying a friend whom Howard was then seeing. He was mesmerized by her and took her for a sailing trip during which he sat on the boat simply staring at her (not speaking) for hours.
Several scenes in the picture show DiCaprio wearing tennis shoes. Now, if the producers had simply bothered to listen to the last interview Howard gave from the Bahamas in 1971, they would have known better: As the well-bred man he was, Howard wore tennis shoes only on the tennis court. During the war, when leather was rationed, shoes were made from non-strategic material which was a sort of canvas. Howard had a pair of these which he liked and wore, but which some newsman termed "tennis shoes," hence this idea that he wore tennis shoes in public was born. He never did. Another inaccuracy: The filmakers show DiCaprio requesting milk as his beverage of choice. While Howard eschewed alcohol, his preferred beverage was usually water or vegetable juice.
Yet another inaccuracy in the picture : Howard attended the opening of "Hell's Angels" not with Jean Harlow as depicted in the picture, but with Billie Dove, arguably the greatest love of his life. There were several instances in the picture where others around him appeared to direct or guide him, in other words they had the upper hand. I feel this doesn't ring true. Howard was nothing if not always in control. This was one of his problems. He simply HAD to have control over people and situations. Because of this and also because of his greater wisdom, discernment, savoir faire and high IQ, everyone looked to him for leadership and guidance, not the other way around.
I felt the extent of DiCaprio's attempts to embody Howard were limited to the constant scowl or frown he maintained resutling in the ubiquitous and deep ridge between his eyebrows. I just felt the actor was attempting a role that proved too much for him. This becomes more obvious when he is in scenes with Alan Alda or Cate Blanchett, much better actors. I felt his job was amaturish and I wish the producers had acquired a more seasoned actor to portray this remarkable man.
However, I will allow that if DiCaprio shines anywhere in this film it is during his portrayal of Howard during the Senate hearings. The moustache helps. The actor obviously assiduously studied the videotapes of the hearings. I also applaud him for simply trying to imitate a man who was inimitable.
And why did the filmakers not portray Howard's trip around the world more fully? This was remarkable and did a tremendous lot to advance the idea that commercial aviation was a plausible idea. He was very proud of this accomplishment.
I was also displeased by the portrayal of Howard's alleged OCD. While it is important to educate people about this condition and find ways to help sufferers, Howard was an extremely private man and would absolutely abhor anyone knowing about his personal problems. We all have problems - but this man was exceptional: exceptionally intelligent, exceptionally kind and generous (despite publicity to the contrary), exceptionally handsome, exceptionally capable, exceptionally strong and brave, exceptionally savvy and discerning, exceptionally obstinate and sedulous, exceptionally wealthy. I feel it is more important and moreover it is what we owe him as custodians of his legacy to publicize his genius and unique gifts which advanced civilization with regards to aeronautics, commercial aviation, filmaking, technology and research. I fear the scenes of his aberrant behavior only served to make him look silly and ridiculous. For years he has been called a "madman" and I am sick of this. HE WAS NEVER "MAD" as we normally use the term. Recall how after a "spell" of aberration, he was able to take on the malfeasance of Senator Brewster and Brewster's attempts to ruin him and in turn ruin Brewster instead! Could a madman have accomplished this??? Indeed, after Howard had vindicated himself in Washington, Brewster was unable to get even a job as a legal clerk!! While I am glad the picture does indeed show Howard's heroic vindication, I am afraid that, because of the sensationalistic nature of the medium and most people's desire to voyeristically observe others they consider "freaks", I fear the "madman" tag will continue to overshadow the absolute and unique brilliance of this man. If you see this picture, please realize that this is Hollywood sensationalism, whatever else it may be. Howard was at once gentle and kind, sensitive and generous - obstinate, determined, wily, rapacious and could be Machiavellian in his attempts to get what he wanted. He had his personal problems, but this is not what is notable about him. Please remember him as he would have wished: As a pioneering aviator, an engineer, inventor,wise, courageous brilliant man who cared about contributing his unique gifts in ways which would advance civilization, which is what he did.