I went to the Madison Theatre in Albany Saturday. While it was not on the newspaper listings, my wife told me that Moneyball was back at the cinema according to the theater’s website. Having disappointingly missed it before, I thought I’d finally go see it. Alas, it was not there. But I’d heard some decent stuff about Hugo, so I opted for that.
Ostensibly, Hugo is about a 12-year-old orphan (Asa Butterfield) who lives in the walls of a Paris train station in 1930, taking care of the clocks there in lieu of his MIA uncle (Ray Winstone), while trying to stay out of the way of the station inspector (a surprisingly effective Sacha Baron Cohen). His single link to his late father (Jude Law) is a mysterious mechanical device that the boy tries to get to work, stealing parts from a grumpy old man who sells tinker toys (Ben Kingsley). From all of that, the plot, also involving the old man’s goddaughter (Chloë Grace Moretz), departs.
Much of this I knew. And to tell the truth, it was a little too long getting through the early exposition; maybe a lot too long, and I struggled to see the point of it all. But once all the parts are finally in place, it becomes not just a fabulous adventure, but a wonderful piece of history of the movies. I read one suggestion that it was not marketed that well, and I can’t disagree, but I don’t quite know how to describe it myself without giving away key plot elements that ought to be experienced first hand. I will reveal that there are lots of “tips of the hat” to other filmmakers, such as Harold Lloyd (see the poster).
I think people will watch it on video, see that it is visually stunning, but will be bored and not bother to finish it; that would be a mistake. It turns out to be a lovely and moving essay on loss and discovery, and of film itself.
I should note that I saw the 3D version, and while I generally hate 3D – it reminds me of the Viewfinder I used to play with as a kid – it was well utilized by director Martin Scorcese, making his first family-friendly film, one his tween daughter can see, in lieu of Goodfellas, for instance.