Amelia (2009) Mira Nair

Production Budget: $40 million
Worldwide Gross: $14 million

I was a little surprised before going into this movie it only got in about the 20% area on the Tomatometer.  Most of the gripes were that it wasn’t necessarily a bad film, but it had no real depth to it.  Well, for once I tend to agree with them.  Amelia is basically the highlights or the CliffsNotes version of the life of Amelia Earhart.  We breeze through the very basics of Earharts career as she flew over the Atlantic, started a partnership with Gene Vidal, and finally attempted to fly around the world leading to her disappearance.

My main problem with this movie is we get absolutely no depth to the character of Amelia Earhart.  We are given so little of her thought process and as the audience kept well past arms length from her that it seems stuff just happens to her.  She does some risky things in her life (obviously one leading to her death) and when pressed for a reason the movie just shrugs its shoulders and goes “Meh, she just loved to fly”  While on the surface it may seem like a fair reply it really isn’t.  If she just wanted to fly, she could have done that for the rest of her life in some manner or fashion and no one would say word one.  For some reason though she felt the need to risk her life time and time again and for what?  Was she a glory hound?  Was she trying to be a role model?  Some super feminist?  A thrill seeker?  Honest to goodness suicidal?  I don’t know and I somehow feel the dumber after seeing a two hour movie on it.

It may be argued that there is no harm in educating people on the life of Amelia Earhart and leaving anything speculative out.  Well, if that’s the case I really don’t see the need to dramatize it.  If you really want to educate people, make Amelia a documentary.  But when you are making a dramatic motion picture, you can’t just give us bullet points on her life and not try to involve us in the story.

We do get SOME look into Amelia’s private life with a love triangle subplot between George Putnam (Richard Gere) and Gene Vidal (Ewan McGregor).  But this somehow falls under the same trap as the rest of her life.  We get absolutely no motivations on any of her actions in the romance; one minute she is in love with George (for no built up reason), then for Gene (I suppose because he is charming but they share a total of 2 lines before falling in the sack), then she falls back in love with George (again, no reason given).  These parts are especially frustrating and grind the movie to a halt in the second act.  Director Nair just seems so scared of putting herself out on a limb to put some motivation behind Earhart she just highlighted paragraphs out of her biographies and just stuck to rigid texts about her.

I am actually a big fan of Hilary Swank and think she is a great actress.  Even though she does have the look down, I have to admit there was something off here.  I can’t quite put my finger on it but she just seemed uncomfortable with the character like she too didn’t know why her character were doing these things.  McGregor does fine and Gere is adequate although he still feels like he’s trying to get over his character in Chicago.  The truly odd casting choice of the movie though is Christopher Eccleston (Dr. Who) as Earhart’s American navigator Noonen.  Chris, believe me, you can do better than this.

I guess I didn’t hate this movie.  It is factual I suppose and maybe a few people can be educated by it.  I just found the whole thing to be dull and made me wonder why if they weren’t going to explore the character, make this a straight up documentary.  Skip it.


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