PG -13 for some sensuality, language, thematic elements and smoking.
October 23, 2009
Hilary Swank, Richard Gere, Ewan McGregor, Christopher Eccleston, Joe Anderson
Fox Searchlight Pictures
Amelia: Official Movie Web site
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By Chris Carpenter
CBN.com Program Director
Despite its best intentions, Amelia, a new motion picture from Fox Searchlight, never seems to take flight. Based on the real life story of pioneering aviatrix Amelia Earhart, the film features some dazzling aerial photography yet falters in its lack of emotional significance.
The film focuses on Earhart’s first glimpse of fame in 1928 through to her 1937 disappearance somewhere in the South Pacific while trying to fly around the world. Along the way, viewers are witness to a woman determined to break down if not shatter the gender barriers of her day. In her quest to do so, Earhart was never bashful in expressing her dreams while serving as a role model to young women across the globe.
Oscar award winning actress Hilary Swank’s portrayal of the legendary flyer is remarkable based on her slightly androgynous physical resemblance but falters in her attempt to recreate Earhart’s earthy Midwestern prairie charm. Swank can be a tremendous actress in the right role as we have seen with Million Dollar Baby and Boys Don’t Cry but she struggles here to recreate Earhart’s indomitable spirit.
Amelia caters to a sub-plot of infidelity. Beyond Earhart’s unquenchable passion for flying, she was also in love with two different men – George Putnam (Richard Gere), a sometimes cutthroat New York publisher who wants to cash in on the most famous woman in America of her day and Gene Vidal (Ewan McGregor), an aeronautics professor at West Point who shares her love of aviation.
Trouble ensues after Earhart marries Putnam. Despite her resistance to accept his marriage proposal, Earhart reluctantly enters a marital union that is as much about their business relationship as it is about their love for each another. Vidal, the father of a very young Gore Vidal (William Cuddy), is everything Putnam isn’t. He is younger, more charming, and has better insight into Amelia Earhart the person. A stolen kiss in an elevator and some unearthed love letters threaten her marriage but the film’s director, Mira Nair (Monsoon Wedding), quickly points viewers back to the flying.
Christian viewers will struggle with a scene of pre-marital sensuality between Earhart and Putnam as well as the implied affair with Vidal. In addition, there are some slight inferences of bi-sexuality as Earhart admires the figure of another woman in a restaurant scene with Vidal.
Fortunately, there are very few instances of profanity – a plus for any film that focuses on the life and times of an American icon.
Christopher Eccleston turns in a solid performance as the troubled, alcoholic navigator who disappeared with Earhart on her last round the world aviation attempt.
Perhaps the film’s greatest strength is the depiction of Earhart’s aforementioned final flight. Wisely steering clear of conspiracy theories of what may have happened to her; great suspense ensues as she tries to locate tiny Howland Island to refuel her airplane. Without the aid of any sort of global positioning device and the gas gauge quickly plummeting toward empty, Earhart’s focused determination slowly deflates in her attempts to communicate with the Coast Guard positioned nearby the island. Through this gripping tension, viewers are left thinking not what might have been but develop a greater appreciation of who she really was – a pioneering spirit who was determined to make a bold statement for gender equality.
Early in the film, Earhart makes the declaration, “Flying lets me move in three dimensions.” Despite sparkling aerial sequences of flying and the lush landscape beneath, Amelia seems to be missing at least one such measure, leaving the outcome a bit flat.
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