REVIEW: Amelia

111 Minutes // USA // Fox Searchlight
dir. Mira Nair
Wednesday, October 21st, 2009 – Scotiabank Theater
Hilary Swank & Richard Gere

“I feel a little out of my element,” says Amelia Earhart (aptly portrayed by Hilary Swank) oblivious to how greatly similar her and director Mira Nair’s reactions to Earhart’s life are.

Having your audience know the ending of your film before they begin to watch it is a difficult obstacle to overcome for any filmmaker. You can go about it in a few ways, but the primary objective is to not put too much emphasis on the already tangible and work your way to that climax in an efficiently unique way. With Amelia, director Mira Nair along with writers Ronald Bass and Anna Phelan go for the cutting in and out of the final scene tactic. This works well until the final scene does come to fruition and the “don’t exploit” policy seems to have been spoken to deafened ears. Disposition like this is cause for the film’s primary detriment – being entirely cinematic by way of manufacturing what was a humble roots story into the most paltry biopic of recent memory.

At the beginning, we come to witness the pure essence of Amelia Earhart – a sweet, yet driven southern girl who wants to fly. One of the most redeeming qualities is that the film doesn’t dwell upon the dull upbringing of Amelia – giving a mild, but sufficient outlining of Amelia’s persona. In this scene, Ms. Earhart narrates why she is so focus on wanting to fly, and although narration is sparse in use, it is clear that any attempt at giving any meaningful backdrop to the titular character was abandoned early on.

In working on the modern day Amelia (then late 20s), the screenwriters feel they can do away with making the protagonist diverse in emotion – leaving her to be more or less a hollow shell of a character. Primarily, she’s just a happy-go-lucky woman that has no grasp on the world she wants to circulate. This is shown most adamantly with the introduction of money-hungry George Putham (Richard Gere) and the spontaneous jumping from disliking his antics to finding herself in a profound infatuation and loving his entirety. Even later there’s little conflict between the two leaving many untied threads in Amelia’s persona.

Surprisingly never coursing through the feature is the liquid conflict that, in routine biopics, moves along like molasses downhill; slowly and without purpose. In this film, the bad writing proves beneficial as the anger is boiled down to be insignificant. The love affair issues that come with the introduction of suave, but caring Gene Vidal (Ewan McGregor) that would usually play arbitrary is molded into a discernible storyline that takes on heavy connotations only once. Cut-and-paste scripting: simple fun to endure, but an annoyance on revision.

Female segregation plays a powerful role in the film. As someone who’s seen a classic film or two, I know that the woman’s role in society during the golden age of cinema was not ideal and they were not meant to be their own person. While demonizing that thought, Mira Nair finds herself complying with said disgust in ways I’m sure she wished otherwise. Yes, some of the most potent scenes are with Amelia striving for equality; and yes, the subtle approach to her care for all mankind is delicately worked out, but as mentioned earlier, she is made to be as deep as an above-ground pool for young children.

In addition, Earhart finds herself in routine issues. Battling with colleagues, struggling for approval early on, finding issue in doing the mandatory – these are all moments that truly encapsulate what viewers know as completely biographical, and while not of the utmost importance, represent the little bits that Earhart’s character direly needed in this feature.

Seldom are characteristics grooved into – making apparent that co-writer Ronald Bass’ unruly route of creating deeper characters hasn’t evolved in the 20 years since he won for Rain Man. Typically, he enjoys throwing in scenes that are overwhelmingly cinematic – you know, ones that you’d only see on the screen that form from nothingness to make a point – that, for this viewer, made for plentiful annoyance. Particularly the introduction to expert navigator and generally genuine Fred Noonan’s (Christopher Eccelston) problem with alcoholism.

In fact, the film isn’t nearly as bad as this review is making it out to seem – its entirely how one will view the script that will, in the end, conjure their opinion for them. There’s a plethora of intimate and touching scenes, but these are balanced out by the malign carelessness of writing important characters with as much exigency as possible. This clusters the film with a fog that even Fred Noonan could navigate around.

A run-of-the-mill biopic from top to bottom, these two hours of celluloid are quaint enough to have left me thinking positively of it. From the delicious set-pieces to the old fashioned speech inflections that will give fans of classic cinema flashbacks to the resplendent leading performance by Hilary Swank, its like everything you’ve seen before. A grating feature, but one that is frothy enough to enjoy notably and one that has clearly virtuous intentions from everyone but the scribes involved.

Suffering greatly at its core due to terribly amateur writing proses, Amelia is similar to an airplane with an inept civilian at the helm: they should have never touched it and the plane is lucky to have crashed and found itself without complete loss. [6/10]

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