Amelia is a tame, neutral glide through the acts of a woman who was neither, fueled by none of the passion or wonder that drove her to new heights.
The story begins and ends with the fateful flight in July 1937 when Amelia Earhart attempted to become the first person to circumnavigate the globe. Then a vacant look and a cloud wipe take us back to fond memories that lead up to this perilous adventure.
Earhart’s childhood motivation for flying is glossed over in seconds, skipping to the chapters where her accomplishments begin. She stares off into the sunset and wishes aloud to be truly free and without boundaries. “No borders, just horizons.” It’s a shame the creative team doesn’t share the same sentiments.
Hilary Swank makes due with the script’s grandiloquent dialogue and grandiose narrations while gripping to a Kansas accent and forcing a smile for the flashbulbs. She’s a spitting image of the legendary aviatrix, but her stiff portrayal is nothing like the bold, charismatic Earhart that captured America’s attention during the Depression.
Richard Gere is publisher and publicist George Putnam, who falls for Earhart while lining up an endless array of endorsements during her celebrity climb. Their chemistry is non-existent and instrumental in the tedium, barely awakening even when she has an affair with Gene Vidal, played by Ewan McGregor. The weak plot focuses on this Bermuda love triangle of boring and not a one of them is worth the trip.
Cherry Jones makes a brief appearance as First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, who is marginalized in a meaningless night flight scene and a single giddy exclamation when she’s allowed to merely touch the steering wheel. “I’m flying!” Sure you are, and this movie is interesting.
The narrative drifts steadily toward the unchanging horizon, never rising above convention to meet any sort of character arc or banking into the vicinity of entertainment. It occasionally sputters a dramatic moment, but the film is largely a dull hum segmented by headlines of her achievements.
There is rarely a detail that couldn’t be learned in a textbook, which is why it plays less like a biopic and more like a History Channel lesson with a relatively sky-high budget. Instead costume design and picturesque landscape scenery are the film’s legacy. Intimacy and intrigue are tossed aside for an empty, simplistic skim along the surface of her life, and it’s depiction is as bland as the faded, black and white snapshots.
Her polyamorous lifestyle and even bisexuality are hinted at, but never deeply explored in what may have been a bold version worthy of its subject. Nor does Mira Nair‘s film ever offer a theory about her mysterious disappearance, choosing to pack all the possibilities on board. The PG-rated Amelia is content with coasting in safe territory and thus feels uninspired rather than inspirational.
2 out of 5.