The world right now is rife with the waves of nostalgia, within the past 2 years we've seen a slew of 80's and 90's themed reboots, re-imaginings and remakes all slowly amassing into a grey cloud that hovers over seemingly all of media. Even in independent media there exists an entire genre dedicated to both the defense and dismissal of certain franchises, garnering hundreds of thousands of views and seemingly an equal amount of eye rolls from yours truly. I abhor nostalgia, however when it comes to the subject of today's review I can not help but to be overwhelmed by a great sense of it. Martin Scorsese's Hugo has something that most nostalgia pieces, heart. It does not try to paint the past in bright colors nor does it make insulting reference to its inspiring material, rather it looks to examine the lives of broken people and their pasts. Almost every character in this film has had some form of loss and I would be remissed if I didn't admit I get a little choked up with every viewing. Certain pieces of art will come into your life at the right time, others will remind you of days gone by, those magical moments in life when even the impossible seemed plausible and the mundane like an adventure, for me Hugo encapsulates both and it is a film I look forward to revisiting every few years.
When first introduced to Hugo it was at a great time of turnover in my life, I had just the year prior lost my grandmother, I was a senior in college and my beloved childhood dog Lex was in his final days, as Ozzie Osbourne would say I was "going through changes." From its opening shot Hugo had me hooked, seeing the Gare Montparnasse presented in such a dream like and lively state was such a relief for a weary mind. To see Martin Scorsese, someone who is so adamant about his love for film history and its preservation be allowed to showcase the works of one of early cinema's greatest pioneers for an entirely new generation was a joy. However beyond its setting and its message of film preservation Hugo is a film about the dreams of those who have lost, it is about the everyday struggles of broken people and the various ways they go about trying to heal. It is perhaps this level of maturity displayed by the film that impresses me the most, it goes far and beyond what is expected of any "kids" film and to see weighted subjects like the death of a parent, the loss of ambition, war and even alcoholism be handled in a non-melodramatic manor was a breath of fresh air. What could easily be a preachy and jilted experience is instead one of optimism and growth, watching the arc of Georges and Hugo unfold will tug at even the iciest of hearts and I defy anyone not to be a little teary eyed during the film's climax. This film has so much life beyond its main plot and the way it weaves the many side narratives and characters together is something of a masterwork, it truly was a pleasure to see this film's characters be brought to life by a mix of veteran actors and screen legends, not to mention the film's young stars of Chloe Grace Moretz and Asa Butterfield who more than hold their own. Much like the films cast the cinematography is a mix of new and old, the way Scorsese intersperses cg and practical to create the dream world of Hugo is simply a stroke of genius, this is a film that I regret not being able to see when it was in theaters as the film was shot with 3d effects in mind, but even without those the Hugo is one of the most beautiful I have ever seen. If you want to experience that feeling of childhood adventure and possibly shed a few tears, do yourself a favor and go seek Hugo out!
At the time of this review Hugo is available to stream on Netflix and is up for rental or digital purchase on several others. And in the spirit of the movie go out watch a few of Georges Méliès films while your at it, the spirit of film must be preserved!