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Movie Review: Amelia (October, 2009)

Director: Mira Nair
Screenplay: Ronald Bass and Anna Hamilton Phelan
Release Date: October 23, more about 2009
Actors: Hilary Swank, Richard Gere, Ewan McGregor, Christopher Eccleston

The story of Amelia Earhart is one that is endearing, inspiring and full of bravery. “Amelia” attempts to capture the essence of Amelia Earhart’s desire to be free, her love for flight and her relative liberal nature. Amelia Earhart’s history and accomplishments are certainly too great to fit into two hours of film, and it is interesting to see where Nair decides to start the story.

The story begins with Amelia approaching George Putnam, (an author and an incredibly successful promoter) expressing her desire to become the first woman to fly across the Atlantic. Since Amelia Earhart’s life is so rich in detail, both in action and personality, it is appropriate that this is where the movie begins.

In general, the film is not the most accurate depiction of Amelia Earhart or her life. For example, it was George Putnam that interviewed her with the idea, not the other way around (or at least that’s what it seemed like in the film). Nair over romanticizes the story quite a bit, and “Amelia” becomes partly a love story – more than it needs to be. The real Amelia Earhart had an open marriage with George Putnam, and it is not known if she ever “returned” to George’s side by becoming completely faithful. In addition, scenes seemed disjointed, as time periods were jumped back and forth from her life to her attempt to fly around the world, as well as simply forward. I’m pretty sure that the attire and the interaction between people was not very accurate of the 1920s and 1930s. Amelia Earhart had more personality than Swank portrayed, which is one point of failure in the film, in addition to the lack of smooth scene changes. We see nothing of what makes Amelia Amelia, and the film simply scratches the surface of how she became to be so famous, what it was that drove her to want to take on the challenges that she successfully accomplished.

The aerial scenes were beautiful, as were the scenes where you saw Amelia fly. The aviation was the best part of the film, as one might expect. I’m not sure how strongly her rumored affair to Gene Vidal (played by the talented Ewan McGregor) meant to her, but I would imagine given Amelia’s personality – not horribly. Her desire to free, to fly, was her first love and focus. In the film, they also take her affair with Gene Vidal as truth. In these biopics, I often wish filmmakers would not take such liberty in the lives of which they are focusing. Of course, I don’t expect a documentary, but this part was added in order to show conflict between George and Amelia.

Richard Gere is still as handsome as ever, more handsome next to Hilary Swank’s Amelia Earhart, and does a good job in portraying George Putnam. I thought Hilary’s Amelia was acceptable, though nothing what I would expect from an Oscar winning actress portraying a legendary U.S. icon. Something about the screenplay is off, and lacks the finesse and seriousness to be an excellent, or even a great film. “Amelia” is a good film.

I did like the ending, and how they filmed it in such a way that it was up to the viewer to decide what happened to Amelia Earhart and her navigator, Fred Noonan (Christopher Eccleston) on their way to Howland Island. It was to be their last stop before stopping in Honolulu, during Amelia’s attempt at flying around the world. I’m not sure if this was true, but the direction finder seemed to have “run out of battery”, part of a theory I’m not sure was true. The reason they give in this film seems silly, as one would ask “would they not have a backup?” I’m not sure that I could swallow this as part of the possible reasons why Amelia Earheart disappeared.

Just to clarify, I liked the film. However, if you’re a stickler of facts and details, “Amelia” is not the best for that. If you enjoy flights and aviation, there are some wonderful moments of scenery, and are well worth watching on the big screen. Iif you’re simply interested in the life of Amelia Earhart and would like to see this film, I would wait until the movie came out on rental. Having said that, if you’re looking to see a meaningful movie over the weekend, with a bit of drama, “Amelia” would be the one to see as opposed to the other ones currently playing in the theatre. Or if you’re in San Diego, I’d recommend checking out the San Diego Asian Film Festival, which is offering a wide array of wonderful Asian films.

Wait for rental: 2.5 planes / 5 planes

Wikipedia about Amelia Earheart

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