A very striking film, with the filming, the visuals done so as to mimic the type of film stock of the time different periods of the film are set in. Situating the film in the legacy of Hollywood like this (it basically opens with scenes from HELL’S ANGELS) helps ground the construct of Howard Hughes here, both his love and emulation of cinema, and the film-esque unreal quality of life as he lived it. When that life extends to romance with a fifteen year-old girl, it’s disgusting enough to jut out a disconnect for the rest of the runtime. When that life involves a plane crash filmed terrifyingly claustrophobically, it’s stirring entertainment.
Perhaps more than anything, the whole thing is a look at the interplay between mental illness and relationships, both with other people and with society in general. If stripped of all his money and fame, would Hughes have had similar struggles? A summarising flashback sequence at the end of the film frame the aspirations and motivations for his life – all things he achieved throughout the film. And yet he still struggles, massively. After this sequence, the phrase he’s stuck repeating plays as optimistic, settled – he achieved those things, the sum of his life is positive and meaningful. But then he keeps saying it again. The character is difficult, like any real figure, but the film does a splendid job in narrativising his life into an exploration of such things, instead of a more plodding, lifespanning recreation. Three and a half untouched steaks, and a few more cameras.