Sunday, November 15, 2009

506 - Amelia review

“Amelia” tells us the how and then when about Amelia Earhart, but not the why. Most moviegoers (I hope) will have some idea who Earhart was and what made her famous, and though this film might shed some light on the subject, few will really feel concerned about her life and demise. Yes, we know she was a famous woman flier who disappeared during a flight around the world, though if the filmmakers had much of an idea what made her tick, they kept it to themselves.

Hilary Swank plays Earhart in a manner indicative of the film itself: professional and quiet, nice enough but not much to see. Her Earhart is kind, an adventurous woman whose stubbornness is of the “come on, give me a break” variety. Final flight aside, her rise to Depression-Era superstar looks like a breeze, a feat that could be accomplished by anyone willing to apply for a pilot’s license. We’re told its dangerous, but other than that we know she eventually bit off more than she could chew, the flights don’t appear particularly hazardous.

“Amelia” opens at the start of Earhart’s final trip, an unnecessary takeoff seeing as we know where we’re headed, before rewinding to the beginning of her career. As an up and coming celebrity pilot, Earhart meets George Putnam (Richard Gere), a publisher who wants the rights to her story (he already published Charles Lindbergh’s book). He’s smitten by her charm, one largely invisible to us, and soon they’re married, a relationship that’s portrayed largely by a series of hugs and affectionate glances.

The film’s tone is aggressively pleasant and docile; even when Earhart engages in a lengthy public affair with Gene Vidal (Ewan McGregor), the two still have nice tea time with Putnam, all so easygoing that adultery can’t convince them to lose their tempers. The paramour is shown to be the father of Gore Vidal (William Cuddy), the leftist author and pundit who just keeps on not dying. Even as difficulties are raised, such as Earhart’s consistent endorsement deals or her husband’s underhanded attempts to sabotage an air race, they’re all just as soon discarded. It’s perhaps this amiability that ensures that the film is watchable, but rarely compelling.

What “Amelia” needs is a real character. I’m sure that the real Earhart was an incredible woman with a complex set of values and desires. “Where is she?” I asked myself. I certainly would have been happy to meet her.

2.5 out of 5

1 comment:

Heidi said...

It truly sounds like a made-for-television movie. I'm glad I skipped it.