CATEGORIES The DL From LA

One of the latest releases on DVD is 'Amelia', the story of legendary pilot Amelia Earhart, a pioneer for women everywhere. I was eager to see a film about this remarkable woman who once worked as a nurse at the Spadina Military Hospital in Toronto. I expected a passionate, moving movie about a highly-charged, independent woman who carved new (flight) paths and didn't let anything, including the foreseeable risk of death, get in her way.

Unfortunately, this biopic is far too tempered. The film focuses on the time between her first flight as a passenger (where she earned the nickname "Lady Lindy" in conjunction with Charles Lindbergh) on a cross-Atlantic flight in 1928 up until her mysterious death in 1937 when she was flying over the Pacific Ocean (along with expert navigator Fred Noonan) and her plane disappeared (and, has since never been found).
One of the latest releases on DVD is 'Amelia,' the story of legendary pilot Amelia Earhart, a pioneer for women everywhere. I was eager to see a film about this remarkable woman who once worked as a nurse at the Spadina Military Hospital in Toronto. I expected a passionate, moving movie about a highly charged, independent woman who carved new (flight) paths and didn't let anything, including the foreseeable risk of death, get in her way.

Unfortunately, this biopic is far too tempered. The film focuses on the time between her first flight as a passenger (where she earned the nickname "Lady Lindy" in conjunction with Charles Lindbergh) on a cross-Atlantic flight in 1928 up until her mysterious death in 1937 when she was flying over the Pacific Ocean (along with expert navigator Fred Noonan) and her plane disappeared (and, has since never been found).

Considering the weak script, Hilary Swank did the best she could with the little she was given to work with. She looked like Amelia Earhart, but Swank was limited by an incredibly cliched dialogue and an astonishing lack of character development. She came across as driven and obsessively devoted to flying, but Earhart's human side was sadly lacking until close to the end of the film. Though there were occasional flashbacks to her childhood, Earhart would have been more relatable had the filmmakers shown more of her growing up and her family relationships. The only real clue we are given as to what might have given Earhart her steely determination was in one scene where she talks about her emotionally unavailable alcoholic father. I don't even remember a single mention of her mother beyond saying she received a congratulatory telegram from her when Amelia flew solo across the Atlantic.

Earhart's relationship with her husband George Putnam (played by Richard Gere who seemed terribly uninspired by the role) was initially confusing, and the two actors had little chemistry. Their relationship began through business dealings and it wasn't clear what drew the pair together romantically. Suddenly, out of nowhere, Putnam kisses Amelia. Suddenly, they are together. Um, what?

Swank had significantly more chemistry with Ewan McGregor who played Gene Vidal (father of Gore Vidal), with whom she had an affair with during her marriage to Putnam. But before you go judging, Amelia wasn't cheating on her devoted husband. Earhart was reluctant to marry in the first place, constantly telling Putnam about her desire to live a life of absolute freedom. She told Putnam that she didn't expect him to be faithful to her and that he must not expect faithfulness in return. Driven by his love for Earhart, Putnam agreed to her terms, but her closeness with Vidal made Putnam understandably miserable. Eventually, Earhart gives up on her notions about open marriage and commits, wholeheartedly, to Putnam. Sometimes people with an overwhelming and compulsive need for freedom become trapped, ironically, by the compulsion to feel like they are not bound to anyone. We've all seen 'Breakfast At Tiffany's,' right?

'Amelia' focuses on various flights Earhart took around the world and the crowds and media who greeted her upon every landing. Despite the beauty of some of the cinematography, it got boring having to watching her fly, with endless close-ups of her facial expressions and having to listen to her views on being up in the sky, which seemed like they wanted to be profound, but crashed and burned before they could reach that level. The film coasts on an overly romanticized superficiality that borders on teenage poetry.

It's never a bad idea to make a film about a legendary woman who was one of the earliest feminists. It's just too bad the film wasn't better. Though it accurately depicted both Earhart's need to prove herself and the amazing way she inspired millions around the world, this film didn't prove that it was really worth making. You'd probably gain much more by reading Earhart's Wikipedia page.