Film Reviews

AMELIA

By • Oct 25th, 2009 •

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A dull, torturous bore. Could Earhart’s life really have been this uninteresting?

This is not Hilary Swank’s long, sought-after romantic epic. If Swank and her director, Mira Nair, saw this vehicle as aviation’s OUT OF AFRICA they should have dressed it up with rumors of espionage, Presidential and First Lady favoritism, and an exciting, illicit affair gone terribly wrong.

Instead, we get navigation details, weather reports, and a worried, worshipful husband.

Was the men-only profession of aviation so wimpy that Earhart just sashayed in and made herself the most famous woman in America?

As soon as I saw that the screenplay was by Ronald Bass (and Anna Hamilton Phelan) I knew it would be a watered-down, strictly by the Hollywood books re-telling of the – I once thought fascinating – life of Amelia Earhart.

After seeing this movie, there is no way you will want to read either of the two books about Earhart (“East to the Dawn” by Susan Butler and “Amelia Earhart: The Mystery Solved” by Elgin Long) that the movie is based on.

Amelia Earhart (Hilary Swank) is a Midwest picture-postcard freckled girl with a dream to fly planes. Her instant success begins almost magically. She meets with publisher George Putnam (Richard Gere) and is hired to fly a rich woman’s plane as a publicity stunt.

As a hired hand, Gere ably fits the role of devoted husband. Gere looks at Swank as if she were Venus-on-the-Tarmac.

They marry, and Earhart has an affair, but it does not enliven the story. Since it’s a well-known historical fact, it is chastely noted without indicating that it was passionate. Gene Vidal (Ewan McGregor) was a dashing, rich aviation pioneer himself and Putnam apparently knew about their tepid assignations. Vidal was a frequent houseguest of the Putnams (with his young son, Gore).

I kept trying to invent subtext to make Amelia Earhart’s life worthy of an epic. Why did Putnam put up with Vidal? Was Earhart’s resentment of Putnam, who worked her like a show horse, pedaling kitchen products and luggage, the instigation for the affair?

There is not even a murmur that Earhart, on her famous around-the-world trip that failed, was on an espionage mission for Franklin Roosevelt!*

Earhart and Putnam could not relinquish her premier role as America’s Aviatrix. The first woman to fly around-the-world was up for grabs. It was dangerous and Earhart’s navigator, Noonan (Christopher Eccleston) was a drunk. But not too drunk to make a pass at gorgeous Amelia the night before their historic flight!

Did Earhart’s plane, The Electra, just run out of fuel?

Mira Nair is the wrong choice for director. Swank’s performance is wooden and the framing of Amelia’s romances are silly and awkward. Gere knows better than to gaze at an actress in such a corny way.

While Swank reaps some of the blame for fashioning this turkey, the true blame goes to the screenwriters. Did they use screenplay-by-the-numbers software? We know exactly what happened – Amelia got lost and never landed – so why not give us the intriguing back-story?

*Earhart had a close, personal relationship with Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt. Was this her motivation for spying? This widely-held rumor upset Eleanor Roosevelt, and shortly before the first lady’s death she told Earhart’s sister, “Franklin and I loved Amelia too much to send her to her death.”


Victoria Alexander lives in Las Vegas, Nevada and answers every email. You can contact Victoria directly at masauu@aol.com.

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