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Old 10-22-2009, 11:32 PM
Mira Nair's Amelia


Amelia (2009)

"Amelia" is what you get when you suck most of the life out of a biopic. You end up with a film that feels flat, distant, and has, as I heard one gentleman exclaim upon exiting the screening, "characters that looked like animatronic machines at the Air and Space Museum." A biopic about the life of Amelia Earhart sounds like a great idea, but Mira Nair's film has several problems that held it back from being as entertaining as it should have been.

The film starts off with Earhart beginning her infamous flight around the world and then flashes back to her first trip across the Atlantic. But her first trip is only as a passenger, though she still gets credit for being the first woman to fly across the Atlantic. She had become part of this flight with the help of George Putnam (Richard Gere), her manager of sorts, whom she would eventually marry. A few years later, she decides to attempt the flight across the Atlantic alone. Meanwhile, her relationship with George becomes strained as another man, Gene Vidal (Ewan McGregor), enters her life. All of this leads up to where the film began, with her most famous voyage.

"Amelia" amounts to a very "By-the-numbers" biopic that doesn't have anything new or interesting to tell us about the life of Amelia Earhart. It basically contains everything that the average person would already know about her accomplishments, like crossing the Atlantic or her mysterious disappearance during her attempted flight around the world.

The parts that some people might not know about are her relationships with George Putnam and Gene Vidal. This could have been a great source of exploration for the film, but it chooses to skim over these relationships, not going into very much detail about them, and as a consequence, doesn't give Richard Gere and Ewan McGregor a whole lot to do with their characters.

Speaking of skimming, the film skims over most of the important events in Earhart's life, giving it the feeling of a general overview. It completely skips over her childhood (which could have been another interesting source of exploration for the film) and chooses to settle on the events that most people already know about. This skimming gives the film a very choppy feeling. Every time the audience settles in to learn about a particular event, in just a few minutes, the film jumps ahead to the next one, making it feel rushed along.

Hillary Swank's performance as the titular aviator comes off as corny throughout most of the film, though she does end up with a handful of scenes that felt genuine. Because of the film's "by-the-numbers" format, there isn't really much that she can do with the character as she glides from event to event. There ends up not being very much chemistry between Swank and Gere, whose performance as a longing lover felt more awkward than emotional.

To it's credit, "Amelia" is beautifully shot by cinematographer Stuart Dryburgh. We get to witness the gorgeous landscapes that Earhart passes over on her different flights all over the world. Similarly, the costumes and sets are just as fitting, giving off that distinct 30s feeling. If only the same could be said of the actors...

We eventually reach the ending which just about everyone is familiar with, Earhart infamous disappearance over the Pacific Ocean in 1937. Since most people already know this, the filmmakers had a difficult task to make this part of the film interesting, but instead, it ends up feeling overly-long and drawn out, until it finally tells us about her disappearance. There have been many theories as to what could have happened, but the filmmakers don't get into any of that, only the facts, putting us right back where we started from and making us wonder why we just watched a film telling us what we already knew.

This really could have been an interesting film had the filmmakers found some kind of new insight into Earhart's life instead of just retelling the major events of her career. It ends up being bogged down by a lack of emotion, poor character portrayals, and a rushed overview of an extraordinary woman's life. In the end, we have a film that obviously wanted to be Oscar bait but just couldn't take off. 2/4 stars.

Last edited by Hal2001; 10-25-2009 at 11:57 PM..
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