Saturday, February 20, 2010


I had breakfast today with a young man who considers himself a movie-lover, not a film aficionado. He told me that, in his opinion, Hilary Swank hasn't done a decent film since Million Dollar Baby. Amelia is a decent film, and she's wonderful in it, but it's not a great film.

Everyone knows the story of Amelia Earhart, the aviatrix (a quaint name for a female aviator back in the thirties), from obscurity in Kansas to worldwide notoriety as the female Lindbergh when she's picked for her first transatlantic flight by publicist George Putnam (Richard Gere). Or, rather, we don't know the story, at least the end of the story. She disappeared in the Pacific Ocean along with her navigator while trying to fly over the Pacific Ocean in 1937.

Amelia doesn't really explain what happened, except to report what we already knew about mechanical problems with her plane. What the film purports to do is explain why a woman, why this woman, would be up there in the first place.

But there's no conflict in that story. So the movie gives us romance, and romantic suffering, as it shows Amelia being a little untrue to Putnam in her dalliance with a British business man (Ewan MacGregor). Unfortunately, this is all very boring, and adds little to her story, except for perhaps the ongoing theme of "I want to be free."

Swank looks so much like photos of Earhart that it's downright spooky. However, out of her mouth comes platitudes, again along the themes of freedom and flying is fun. Except for her one love affair outside of marriage, she's pretty much shown as perfect: not a hair out of place, that toothful smile always on her lips, and totally blameless in the fact that Putnam lied to the public about her exploits. (She wasn't the first aviatrix across the Atlantic, until she did it herself, unassisted, a few years later.) Unfortunately, "perfect" doesn't begin to explain the woman, what drove her, what made her the aviation icon she is today.

Amelia, and Hilary, may have done it for the fun, but where's the fun for the rest of us? Amelia is a beautifully shot picture with no real meaning or soul.

Thumb's down.


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