12
Nov
09

Movie Review: Amelia

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On a round-the-world flight, she disappeared.

Starring Hilary Swank, Richard Gere, Ewan McGregor, and Christopher Eccleston. Directed by Mira Nair

This is the kind of movie that will eventually be played in history classes while the teacher is busy updating his/her grades and making lesson plans. For better or worse, that’s what it will be relegated to.

Hilary Swank plays the aviatrix who, as common knowledge and every “mysterious disappearance” TV show and movie points out, wanted to be the first woman to fly around the world. On July 2, 1937 she lost radio contact and the rest has been the stuff of speculation and America’s dark romance with the unexplained.

Gere is George Putnam, a New York publisher known for releasing the book on Charles Lindbergh. Suddenly smitten with the presence of the protagonist, he books her as a passenger on a flight set to cross the Atlantic if it can ever happen. With persistence and can-do spirit Earhart pushes for the flight to happen with her suddenly being thrown into the spotlight.

McGregor is Gene Vidal, a single father even more impressed with Earhart than Putnam. Vidal and Earhart become business partners in the world of aviation and a little more off the scene. Earhart breaks off their romance to stay faithful to her husband.

Eccleston plays Fred Noonan, one of the best navigators in the biz. Equally known is his alcoholism. Earhart, having grown up with an alcoholic father, warns him but he reasserts that he will not let it affect his job performance. He disappeared with Earhart on the day of note.

There ya go.

I didn’t hate the movie as much as I was disappointed, which eventually became ambivalence. I’m a fan of a good mystery and along with Flight 19, Earhart’s disappearance became legend. One of the problems with this movie is that it asks more questions than it answers and in doing so doesn’t bother answering anything. What was Amelia’s background before she showed up at Putnam’s doorstep? Why did she do what she set out to do? Was she a lesbian? Et cetera.

Instead the movie plops you into the point in her life where she meets the publisher and does a straight-forward chronology with minimal interruption of flash-forwards where she is hopelessly looking for Howland Island to land on. While there is some “creative interpretation” of her life’s events a good chunk of the movie seems to play out like plot points or a greatest hits collection of deleted/extended scenes.

And therein lies the frustration of grading or gaging this movie: it’s massively uneven. The director seems to intersperse the disappearance with moments from her life leading up to it but fails to give any mention of previous events. Either I’ve watched the programming from too many movies or this one’s story is really lackluster.

Nair seems to touch upon Earhart’s life as as if she’s afraid to make a statement about anything. It’s like someone asking you “do you think she helped champion the cause of womens’ rights?” Your answer is then followed by “well, what do you think?” I honestly felt like I was in back in school and each question (aviation, alcoholism, commercialism, lesbianism) would be featured at the end of the chapter and I would have to skip to the back of the book and turn it upside down to find the correct one (“There it is: seven”) One of the big themes noted in the film was that Putnam controlled her “image” by having her sponsor ads for luggage, cigarettes, etc. She brings it up to him one time and he explains it off, and she never says anything about it again, not even when more people hound her for that fact.

So much is wasted. I’m not a big fan of Swank but she does seem to carry on as if she doesn’t care that no one else cares, which may be a good thing. Eccleston and Gere have odd accents out-of-place for them. The cinematography had some beautiful moments. The soundtrack seemed to be made for a much better movie.

In my honest opinion this movie would have done right by taking a cue from “Hollywoodland.” No one really knows how George Reeve died, but at least the filmmakers gave the “conspiracy theories” on how it happened. And while George Reeve may have been less extraordinary than Earhart per se, at least the filmmakers gave him his do. Sorry for your loss, Amelia.

In regards to historical dramas, one has to ask themselves, would a History Channel documentary on the same subject be more interesting than this movie? On this one I’m gonna say “yes.”

TRIVIA: This is the first movie since 1994’s “Shallow Grave” to feature both Eccleston and McGregor.

My grade: a straighten-up and fly right C-

P.S. For more information on Amelia Earhart, read a book! Or go look her up on Wiki.

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1 Response to “Movie Review: Amelia”


  1. November 20, 2009 at 11:33 pm

    I’ve so got to see this.

    Like


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