Asa Butterfield and Chloe Grace Moretz in HUGO

HUGO is a good, entertaining film. Scorsese wanted to make a film that his 12 year old daughter could watch, and he has succeeded very well. It will also be a nice memory for her when she grows up and sees her Dad’s other movies, where people are often stabbed in the throat and beaten to death with baseball bats!

Hugo (Asa Butterfield) is a young orphan living in Paris’s Montparnasse railway station in the 1930’s. He spends his days keeping the station’s big clock in repair, peeking out at the goings-on at the station, stealing food, and escaping the clutches of Borat- sorry Sasha Baron Cohen, as the nasty station Inspector, who has a bad leg and a vicious Doberman, and quite enjoys sending young thieves to the orphanage.

Baron Cohen is actually one of the best things in the film: ridiculous and scary at the same time, yet also quite touching.

Hugo tries to steal some spare parts from the grumpy old Toymaker’s (Ben Kingsley) shop. Kingsley, in a finely judged performance, turns out to be the famous silent film-maker, George Melies, now fallen on times, depressed and cynical, and distraught that his films can no longer be found

So- when I tell that Melies has an adventurous young grand-daughter (Chloe Grace Moretz) who makes friends with Hugo, and they decide to find Grandpa’s lost movies with the hope that they can bring happiness back into his life, you can pretty much fill in the blanks from there! It is, after all, a fable and Scorsese is nothing if not a great storyteller.

HUGO looks great. The re-creations of Melies’s old films are a lot of fun. You can tell that Scorsese was enjoying himself!
The film’s sentimental parts are well balanced by darker shades- the dog, a train crash, some scary dream sequences- scenes which keep the film from getting too soppy.

And young Chloe Grace Moretz is so bright and lovable. She gives the film heart. And she’s ever so mature, much more than Hugo is.

HUGO’s not perfect. There’s plenty of plot to get through, and the gears grind a little slowly, in places. At one point, the kids read some important information out loud from a library book, so that the audience will know who George Melies was. A bit of too obvious exposition. And then there’s all the business about the ‘automaton’, the mechanical man Hugo who is fixing,

I also can’t help wondering if today’s audiences would be as fascinated by old silent films as Scorsese’s characters are.
But that’s enough of quibbling. HUGO is a very impressive film, with plenty of humour and charm. And it makes for such a nice change from seeing guys getting their heads crushed in a vice!

© Peter Morrison
9th June, 2012


Tags: Sydney Movie Reviews- HUGO, Martin Scorsese, Sydney Arts Guide, Peter Morrison.