Directed by Mira Nair (The Namesake, Monsoon Wedding), Amelia covers the life of legendary aviation pioneer Amelia Earhart (played by two-time Academy Award winner Hilary Swank). Once again, Swank proves to be an amazing actress by totally immersing herself in the role -- she truly soars. Unfortunately, the script doesn't match her quality. With the feel of a Lifetime TV movie, the film never really gets off the ground -- but it's saved from a total crash and burn with fine performances by Swank and co-star Richard Gere as Earhart's husband, publisher George Putnam.
I'll admit that I learned a bit about Earhart that I didn't know (or at least forgot from my history classes). Her 1928 flight across the Atlantic was heralded around the world for being the first by a female aviator -- but she was merely a glorified passenger. Her career had its ups and downs -- with failures mixed in with the celebrity glory. And besides her marriage, Earhart also carried on a long-time affair with fellow aviation pioneer Gene Vidal (Ewan MacGregor). For the most part, neither love feels authentic on screen -- as both are pretty glossed over. The biggest mis-step is that the script fails to explain how such an incredible woman -- so advanced in her independent thinking -- came to be. We learn very little of her childhood, upbringing or early adult years that molded her.
But all is not totally lost. Even though we know the outcome of Earhart's 1937 mission to fly around the world, Nair keeps us interested in playing it out. You'll feel some tense action as Earhart and her navigator lose sight of their goal. As with the earlier flight scenes, you actually feel like you're up in the air with them. Sadly, although a few clues are given for their disappearance, it seems we'll never truly get the answers to one of the biggest mysteries of all time. But another mystery is why Academy Award winning screenwriter Ron Bass (Rain Man) keeps us guessing on what drove Earhart's independent spirit. [Rated PG; opens today]
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