By Stephanie Andolino, Freelance Writer-
What do you get with a mix of a lonely little boy, Director Martin Scorsese, dramatic actor Sir Ben Kingsley (Georges Melies) and the comedy of actor Sacha Baron Cohen tossed up with a little bit of magic? It’s Paramount Pictures HUGO in 3D.
“Hugo” is the film version of the book The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick. It is the story of an orphaned boy living in a Paris train station, circa 1931, that finds a new home and purpose in life thanks to the help of the true-life famed filmmaker Georges Melies.
Georges Melies was a real magician turned filmmaker once known the world over a century ago, but like many artists, he lost his time in the sun and his soul along with it. That is, until author and illustrator Brian Selznick created a character named “Hugo” to help him find it again.
Kingsley puts it best: “The magic of the movie is the boldness of putting incredibly wounded characters on screen…(and) Hugo is the healer that weaves them together.” Hence Melies and Hugo in turn help each other.
Yet, when Selznick conceived of the book, he never imagined he would see it come to life in the form of a film. In fact, Selznick says he never thought anyone would even read such a story about silent movies and children living in the 1930s, let alone have it be made into a 3D movie!
With 284 drawings within his book that help carry the plot which delves into the magical history of film making against a beautiful historical Parisian background, his story was destined for the big screen.
In fact, it was a bit of kismet historical magic that brought many of the people both behind and in front of the cameras together to make this production. Selznick is related to the famed David O. Selznick, producer of Gone with the Wind, King Kong and Duel in the Sun. Many whom worked on this film were heavily influenced by both Meiles’ and David O. Selznick’s films. In fact, the first film that “Hugo” director Martin Scorsese’s ever saw was Duel in the Sun.
With such a brilliant team put together, the film illuminates a magical presence in 3D that is strong yet never overpowering or dizzying. What was especially unique to this film was the sparkly dust, that was actually goose-down feathers that were grated, that appeared in every scene to help convey the magical theme.
While it is beneficial to read the story before going into the movie, the film holds it own. Particular comparisons that stood out is the fact that the screenplay version softened the story and characters a bit, especially Isabelle (played by Chloe Grace Moretz) and Georges Mieles which helped the film seem more inviting especially for younger kids. Rather than fight with Hugo, film version Isabelle helped him more. Kingsley’s kind eyes could not be missed, giving Melies’ character a better sense of humanity.
Added comedy came from Sacha Baron Cohen making the stern Station Inspector humorous. Cohen thanks Scorsese for allowing him to add his own flavor at times, such as the scene with he and his dog taking a bath together! Lord of the Rings fans will be happy to see Sir Christopher Lee who portrays Saruman in LOTR, playing a poignant role as Monsieur Labisse. The astonishing performance of young Asa Butterfield as Hugo who at only 13, delivered a heartfelt performance thanks Scorsese for allowing him as a child actor to speak his own thoughts about how children would react in certain scenes. With the elaborate set design and magical atmosphere, one can see that it will be a film most cherished by these actors as a moment in time they won’t soon forget.
Selznick’s message all along is– make magic. It’s a film that for the young, for the old and everyone in between. If you don’t give up, your dreams can come to life, as they do on the big screen.
“Hugo” opens in theater Wednesday, November 23, 2011.