HUGO (2011)

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Director: Martin Scorsese
MPAA Rating: PG
Running Time: 126 min.

Twelve-year-old orphan Hugo Cabret lives in the walls of a Paris train station where he minds the clocks.  Always trying to avoid the clutches of the zealous but mildly incompetent Station Inspector, Hugo steals what he needs to survive, as well as little clockwork toys from the station toy shop which he uses to repair the mysterious automaton that he and his late father had been fixing.  But the old toy shop owner catches Hugo stealing and confiscates the notebook with his father’s instructions and drawings.  The shop owner seems to have a strong emotional connection to the drawings, but he will not explain himself to Hugo.  In order to earn the notebook back, Hugo takes a job at the toy shop and befriends the shop owner’s goddaughter, Isabelle.  Together they embark on the adventure of uncovering the automaton’s secrets and the old man’s past.

Scorsese and John Logan, the screenwriter, truly hit the mark in this adaptation of Brian Selznick’s The Invention of Hugo Cabret.  This was a story that needed to be made into a film.  The cinematography was simply beautiful and tried to capture the original drawings from the novel (which were supposed to imitate camera shots themselves).  The beginning of the film is slow and the “mysteriousness” of the plot will drag on if you have not read the book.  But the beginning of the book is actually much slower and more mysterious, and the film is very pretty to look at even if you are confused.  I also loved how Scorsese and Logan created the milieu of the 1920s Parisian train station and wove the vignettes of the shop owners into Hugo’s story.  Of course it is when film history begins to figure prominently in the story that the true power of the film begins to come through.  Full marks to Brian Selznick for the creativity of this story and his innovation in weaving films into his book through illustrations, but this aspect of the story was especially powerful in the film adaptation.  Scorsese’s and Logan’s “moral of the story” angle was a bit heavy-handed, but otherwise a truly great adaptation.

If you liked the book, go see the movie!  If you didn’t like the book, but found the concept/story interesting, go see the movie!  If you have no idea what I’m talking about with this book but like artsy, visually stunning films, go see the movie!  It’s a good one.

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