In the 1930’s, Amelia Earhart was a woman of great achievements to be admired. Men wanted her and women wanted to be her. Most all of us know of the tragic end that became of her, so why do we want to see the movie?
That was the question I had when I sat down to see Amelia. I can’t say that I was completely answered or left with a sense of something new. The story almost plays out like a documentary of her life. It begins immediately when Amelia (Hilary Swank) is meeting with Mr. Putnam (Richard Gere) about financing a way for her to fly across the Atlantic to Ireland. There is only a brief flashback showing her as a young girl and a voice over saying that at that moment, she knew she was meant to fly.
The movie slowly paces through the years of her journeys on flights and the fame that came along with it. She marries and I feel nothing for any of this. The flights were all a bit dangerous, yet it felt like I was just buying a ticket for Southwest Airlines with how smooth everything went. There were a few bumps along the way, and it just showed that she was talented enough to pull it off. She marries her publicist, George Putnam, even after declaring herself a free, independent woman, who cannot be tied down. I feel the compassion for George towards Amelia, but not the other way around. She writes this letter to him, stating that if they are not still in love in one year, he will let her go, next scene, they are getting married. There was absolutely no courtship to be witnessed, so again, I didn’t care that they were together.
The movie didn’t have a good flow. It jumped around a lot and left me wondering what had happened with the situation I just witnessed. For instance, Putnam slyly intimidates a young female pilot when they are about to take off in a race Amelia is in, that it would be better for all women if Amelia won the race. We see the planes fly through the finish line, and another woman is announced as the winner, yet all we see is Amelia being interviewed and we have no idea if the young girl Putnam spoke to is actually the winner.
Hilary Swank may have something to do with the fact that I don’t care about her character. It seems that at times of great joy or fearful moments, she chose to show Amelia as a strong, quiet, stoic person instead of giving her a bit of heart so that we can connect with her more. I get that she was very independent and all, but if you don’t give the main character some vulnerability, we cannot connect and therefore, it just feels like a documentary.
The story itself was pretty weak, just holding on to any piece of history they had until the part we are all wondering about, the end. So for an hour an a half, we watch Amelia and George just talking about money and ways to get it so she can fly, another reason that I just didn’t care.
In fact, it wasn’t until the last twenty minutes of the film, or so, that I really started to get into it. The tension was finally building, the flight felt dangerous and we knew what was coming. The actors that played the men trying to contact Amelia for the last island evoked enough emotion to make it a very tense scene. The navigator in the plane with Amelia, Fred Noonan (Christopher Eccleston), actually made me scared of what might happen.
Director Mira Nair was not outstanding or giving anything new, but on a positive note, the movie was shot beautifully, flying over lush jungles and waterfalls to the African safari. They were able to convey a sense of discovery through the camera. Although, they could have used it better and given us more. It would have greatly helped us fall in love with flying the way Amelia was in love with it. The wardrobes were spot on and beautiful as well. I loved George Putnam’s eye glasses. They were almost an octagon shape and helped to keep me in the 1930s.
Richard Gere was great in his role as the loving husband/business partner and every time he was on screen, it felt a little warmer, and a little more like a movie. Ewan McGregor also had a small role as Gene, a love interest and business partner for Amelia and when he was on screen, I felt a lot of chemistry between the two and actually cared a bit more about Amelia.
So, I know it sounds like I hated this film, and that would be wrong. The story could have given us so much more and I feel that Hilary Swank was only cast in this role because she looks a lot like Amelia Earhart. The movie has it’s moments and seems to redeem itself in the end, but it will never be enough for me to watch it again. If you are a big history buff, or die hard Swank fan, you may love this film. Although, I wouldn’t recommend Amelia for anyone but airplane enthusiasts.
I give Amelia 2 “fresh acting lessons for Hilary Swank” out of 5.
by Angela Davis