by Sawyer J. Lahr
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Amelia Earhart’s reputation certainly precedes her, but Hillary Swank and Director Mira Nair give us a perfectly packaged film with none of the suspense, surprise, or sensation belonging to the first person to fly the Atlantic. Few traces of Swank’s raw and biting Oscar-winning performances in Boys Don’t Cry and Million Dollar Baby can be found in this laborious mishap.
Certainly, many fans wanted Amelia to take-off. The stand-out careers of Swank and Nair should have promised the woman-powered hit we were waiting for, but biopics are risky endeavors as Public Enemies sorely proves. The too-many historical details should have been left in the biographies the film bases itself on.
Critics who said Swank was miscast should consider their gender bias, however. Richard Gere performance as Earhart’s publisher husband, George Putnam is deadening. The intergenerational romance drowns like Earhart did. Twenty-three years age difference between Swank and Gere is a fantasy long lost after Shall We Dance (2004). Sometimes a male actor gets too old to be desirable, too redundant and one note.
In striving for historical accuracy, the film fails to fulfill its own romantic potential as fiction. Normally, audiences rely on big action and moving love stories, but Nair just gives it to us straight, pre-digested and unoriginal. A one time opportunity to do a heroine of history justice was spoiled. Earhart’s family and inner-life is stripped down to PG dialogue and voiceover that turns into an understated visual poem rather than a epic journey.
Sawyer J. Lahr is Chief Editor of the forthcoming online publication, Go Over the Rainbow. He also writes a monthly film column for Mindful Metropolis, a conscious living magazine in Chicago, IL.
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