Hilary Swank, Richard Gere, Ewan McGregor, Christopher Eccleston
Ronald Bass, Anna Hamilton Phelan
"Amelia" is a functional film.
On nearly every level, "Amelia" works like a film should.
Hilary Swank functions as the legendary female aviator, never soaring to the heights required to create a fully alive, inspiring or motivational character such as Amelia Earhart.
"Amelia" looks pretty, has pretty dialogue, functionally tells Amelia Earhart's story and the supporting cast, including Richard Gere as hubby George Putnam and Ewan McGregor as fling Gene Vidal, function just fine within the framework of the film.
As a film, however, "Amelia" is solid proof that filmmaking is about more than simply "function." While "Amelia" functions just fine, in just about every way possible "Amelia" is remarkably lacking and surprisingly lacking given its obvious intentions as early awards season fodder.
Sorry, Hilary. There won't be any awards coming your way for this year.
In case you failed U.S. History, Amelia Earhart became the first woman to fly across the Atlantic Ocean in 1928 (as a passenger) then completed the trip solo four years later. Earhart's tragic figure would become forever implanted in the American consciousness when her plane disappeared in 1937 during an attempt to become the first woman to circumnavigate the globe.
Director Mira Nair has fashioned a film that is beautiful to behold, yet lacks the majesty, inspiration and awesomeness it so desperately needs and which infuses such previous Nair films as "Monsoon Wedding" and "The Namesake." Likewise, while Swank's appearance certainly embodies the feminist aviator, Swank's portrayal never really feels like a woman whose every action would enrapture an entire nation, indeed the world.
Part of the problem, it seems, is that Nair and co-writers Ronald Bass and Anna Hamilton Phelan seem intent on portraying Earhart in a way that rings hollow and, indeed, isnt' quite accurate. Earhart, as a woman and an aviator, was far more complex than "Amelia" would have you believe, a woman whose marriage seemed more about crafting a public image than any notion of romanticism. Likewise, her affair with Vidal was rumored to have never actually ended...a vital fact not only ignored here but completely altered. It doesn't help that Swank's chemistry with both Gere and McGregor is lacking, and neither relationship ever feels remotely convincing.
Only Christopher Eccleston, as Earhart's co-pilot on her ill-fated flight, manages to serve up a pleasing performance in a film that too often feels like a reader's theatre version of Earhart's bio.
Tech credits, as well, seem oddly lacking for a film about a woman who truly soared and whose mysterious disappearance remains one of this nation's great unresolved tragedies. CGI effects during the flight scenes border on dismal, Stuart Dryburgh's cinematography is unimaginative and Gabriel Yared's accompanying original score is completely devoid of subtlety and originality.
Unfortunately, the latest unresolved tragedy involving Earhart is how such an outstanding director and a fine actress, who also served as Executive Producer for the film, can blend together to create such an unfitting tribute to an American icon.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic