Thursday, 10 December 2009

Amelia: Movie Review

Amelia: Movie Review

Rating: 5/10
Cast: Hilary Swank, Richard Gere, Ewan McGregor, Christopher Eccleston
Director: Mira Nair
Hilary Swank stars as the symbol of optimism and hope to many during the great depression in this latest attempt to bring Amelia Earhart to the screen.
(The first of course was the button nose Amy Adams in this year's Night At the Museum 2)
Earhart's story is obviously one which is well known given how her final flight turned out - although the mystery behind it has never been solved, there's been endless speculation about what exactly happened when she disappeared.
Book-ending this film is that flight - as the film opens, Earhart's in the plane with her navigator - but from there, we're cast back into the past as we see exactly how she became interested in the whole business of flying and cracking the gentlemen's club of the time. The story's told in flashbacks as we see Earhart taking her final flight, the 1937 round the world attempt from which she disappeared.
Earhart first meets with publisher George Putnam (Richard Gere) who asks her why exactly she wants to fly. He's after a female face to help sell a book - and interest - in aviation. But Putnam's reckoned without Earhart's moxy and her ambition to fly solo (something which was framed upon in the boy's club of the time).

Amelia is a disappointing biopic - despite Swank's uncanny resemblance to Earhart, there's little passion in the film - even an affair with Ewan McGregor's Gene Vidal is brushed over without any real depth and feeling. And Putnam's desire to keep Earhart and his jealousy over her friendship with Vidal is fumbled over as well. It's a case of missed opportunities with this biopic.
Earhart was clearly a conflicted, passionate character - she was forced to endorse products she didn't believe in because of the harsh reality that a lack of product placement would mean no cash to finance the flights. We see her give in with little fight and it's frustrating.
Director Mira Nair's used to great effect old aeroplanes and some of the old reel footage which exists of the flights at the time (the newsreels fade into excellent recreations of the scenes) and there's a wonderful sweeping score.
But set against the backdrop of the Great Depression, I never really got a sense of how Amelia Earhart was the modern hero to those who suffered so badly in the 30s - and I certainly never felt that the filmmakers got that message across well enough.

There's a simplicity of story telling within Amelia - but unfortunately it's a little too broad brush and treats the subject a little too lightly. It's very tempting to say the biopic rarely takes off (sorry) but in all honesty, Amelia just doesn't gel together; the story's a little flat and it's hard to emotionally engage with Amelia herself and sympathise with her plight as she tried desperately to pioneer her way in the skies.

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