Amelia Review

(2.5 STARS)

How can a film about one of the most legendary figures of the 20th century, who has such a mysterious story, be so bland? Neither the performances of Hilary Swank and Richard Gere, nor the direction Mira Nair (in my opinion, a great filmmaker) can get this film off the ground. I features some gorgeous photography, and a surprisingly suspenseful final 20 minutes, but the rest of the film is entirely unremarkable to the point of actually being boring. It bombed in theatrical release, and while I didn’t think it was quite as bad as many have said, it certainly wasn’t as good as it should have been.

Amelia Earhart’s (Hilary Swank) story is as well-known as any. The first woman to fly solo over the Atlantic, Earhart was one of America’s first real celebrities (as was fellow flier Charles Lindbergh). During the 1920s, she became an avid flier, and was the first female passenger to fly across the Atlantic. A stunt, coordinated by her publicist and eventual husband George Putnam (Richard Gere), made the public believe Earhart piloted the flight. This catapulted her into the spotlight, which she used to gain financial support for her future flying endeavors as well as to promote gender equality among within flying community. When she loses an all-female flying race, she remarks that any win for a female flier is a win for her.

The film goes on to chronicle (in unnecessarily jumbled fashion) Earhart’s romance with Putnam, her affair with fellow flying enthusiast Gene Vidal (Ewan McGregor), and her attempt at flying around the world. The latter provides a much needed boost of energy. There are a few scenes scattered throughout of Earhart flying over the plains of Africa, but once those scenes dovetail with the more straightforward plot, the film is actually on solid ground. The problem, however, is that it takes way too long to get there. Some 15 exciting minutes are not enough to atone for an hour and a half of plodding melodrama.

The film’s primary asset is its exceptional photography. A film about flying around the world has an advantage of having its setting literally being the entire planet, so Nair is able to pick and choose some of the most breathtaking sights on Earth, the beauty of which is only enhanced from the birds-eye view we see of them.

The acting in “Amelia” is average at best. Swank, an actress known for giving either tremendous performances or atrocious ones, actually falls in the middle here. She has the look and mannerisms down pat, but Earhart is an extremely one-note character. She wants to be free, and the film hammers us over the head with that one aspect of her character. I have to believe one of the most compelling historical figures was more complex and interesting than that. Richard Gere is equally one-note. He loves his Amelia and will do whatever it takes to see her happy and successful (see the scene in which he threatens one of her competitors in the all-female race). The two do share a lovely scene before she takes off on the final leg of her around-the-world journey. They are a nice couple, but not the most interesting of recent memory.

The film world needs more adult-focused pictures to succeed, which makes failures like “Amelia” all the more disappointing. When films like this fail, studios assume it’s because the over-30 set doesn’t go to the movies, but that’s just not the case. The problem is this demographic, unlike the teenage male demographic, is actually swayed by quality. They want to pay for something that’s actually good. I applaud filmmakers who take the plunge into adult drama territory because its often expected to be a box office flop. I just wish they would take the time to craft something challenging, original, and compelling. “Amelia” really isn’t any of these things. And because I can’t end this review without a cheesy flying reference, I’ll say the film was grounded before it ever takes off.

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