Director: Mira Nair
Starring: Hilary Swank, Richard Gere, Ewan McGregor
Review: 2.5 stars (of five)
Amelia is about half there. Mira Nair creates a smooth, visually engaging recreation of the last decade of Amelia Earhart’s life, evoking the period without fetishism, and she has a top-notch cast. But what leaves the film somewhere around “good” rather than as brilliant as it should be is the flat script that never really takes us inside the famed aviator’s head or heart, that never goes beyond recounting key events in her well-chronicled life.
On the plus side: Hilary Swank, a convincing dead ringer for Earhart (who we see, late in the film, in archival photos and newsreel footage), loses herself in the role and might’ve earned herself Oscar number three if the writers had given her more to work with. Richard Gere more than holds his own, and Ewan McGregor is his sleek, handsome self in a pivotal third role.
On the minus side: We never get into her head. We start in 1928 as Earhart meets Gere, as publisher and publicity puppeteer George Putnam, for the project that becomes her first flight across the Atlantic. When, some time later, Gere leans over and kisses her, the audience is at least as surprised as Swank: We never saw it coming, and as the film progresses, we never understand their love and eventual marriage, though it’s the sun around which all the events of her public career orbits.
Because the film lacks that soul, we never understand why Earhart is so fiercely independent, nor why she agrees to marry him, nor why she stipulates that neither should hold the other to “medieval” codes of fidelity, nor why she has an affair with McGregor’s character (much pussy-footed around by Nair), nor why she ends it.
As an account of Earhart’s exploits, a reminder to the modern age of what she accomplished, the film does a nice job. At just shy of two hours, and all but ignoring Earhart’s life before she made her public splash, it’s the perfect length, and the film handles the inevitable anticlimax (Earhart, of course, simply vanished on the second-to-last-leg of her effort to circumnavigate the globe) quite well.
It just never really soars.