Take it out of consideration... no, wait! Don't! (2 reviews, one of them is lying.)
[And the thread title should've read "reviews".
By JUSTIN CHANG
To say that "Amelia" never gets off the ground would be an understatement; it barely makes it out of the hangar. Handsomely mounted yet dismayingly superficial, Mira Nair's film offers snazzy aerial photography and inspirational platitudes in lieu of insight into Amelia Earhart's storied life and high-flying career. Prestigious packaging, led by Hilary Swank's gussied-up performance as the iconic aviatrix, portends friendly commercial skies for the Fox Searchlight release, at least initially. But critical disdain is unlikely to be countered by much audience enthusiasm, even among admirers of this kind of old-fashioned, star-powered bio-mush.
Condensed by Ron Bass and Anna Hamilton Phelan from two hefty biographies (Susan Butler's "East to the Dawn" and Mary S. Lovell's "The Sound of Wings"), the 111-minute film unavoidably leaves out enough particulars to bug Earhart experts. But omission matters less than interpretation, and what rankles most about "Amelia" is the timidity and lack of imagination with which Nair approaches one of America's most exceptional and intriguing celebrity life stories.
In focusing on the decade between Earhart's first taste of fame in 1928 and her 1937 disappearance over the South Pacific during an attempt to fly around the world, Nair frames the drama as the tale of a woman who chafed against gender barriers in pursuit of big dreams, and inspired others to do the same. The theme is apparent from the moment Amelia, an eager if inexperienced pilot, meets George Putnam (Richard Gere), the New York publisher who made Charles Lindbergh a bestselling author and hopes to work similar wonders with a femme flyer.
While George warns Amelia not to set her sights too high, her pluck and resolve are such that she becomes the first woman to fly across the Atlantic, albeit as a passenger, making her an instant superstar ("Lady Lindy"). A few listless flashing-headline montages illustrate Amelia's rise to stardom on the lecture circuit and in advertising, which help fund her very expensive first love, flying.
Her second love is George, whose marriage proposal she accepts after some resistance. But their union is strained by Amelia's restlessness, her unhappiness with the distractions of fundraising, and most of all by her growing fondness for pilot and aeronautics professor Gene Vidal (Ewan McGregor), the father of a very young Gore Vidal (William Cuddy, winning).
Apart from one stolen kiss, the film tiptoes around Butler's assertion that Amelia and Gene were lovers, lest Amelia become too flawed (and thus too interesting) a heroine. But due to the writing and direction of Amelia's romantic interludes with either George or Gene, the half-formed love triangle never seems in danger of catching fire anyway. Not helping matters is the image of Gere playing yet another older man opposite a younger woman (a shot of Amelia and George on the beach looks like something out of "Nights in Rodanthe").
But it's Swank who must shoulder the heaviest thesping burden, and her Amelia remains earthbound. An actress who does her best work in plain-spoken, contempo working-class roles, Swank is a decent physical match for her subject, and her slightly androgynous appearance here underscores Earhart's standing as a woman among men. But the character's passion hasn't been sufficiently dramatized (this Amelia likes to fly planes because the script says so), and every effort to transform Swank -- the close-cropped blonde hair, the '30s costumes designed by Kasia Walicka Maimone, the actress' wobbly Kansas accent -- ends up feeling like one fussy affectation on top of another.
Similarly, Nair, who has made fine films ("Monsoon Wedding," "The Namesake") that stayed close to her Indian roots, seems completely beholden to biopic formulas here. Slathered in banal voiceover narration and Gabriel Yared's hyperactive score, the pic gets a lot of mileage out of Stuart Dryburgh's f/x-enhanced aerial lensing (largely captured over South Africa). But the footage is postcard-pretty without being psychologically revealing; Imax documentaries and theme-park attractions offer comparable pleasures at a fraction of the length. Intermittent black-and-white newsreel footage of Earhart adds some interest but also feels like a nervous bid for authenticity.
Amelia's final flight (snippets of which are intercut with the narrative proper) is handled with tasteful directness, steering clear of the conspiracy theories that have dogged Earhart's legend. But "Amelia" seems uninterested in mining any fresh meaning or mystery from its subject's fate -- which, though tragic, was also instructive, an American spin on the Icarus myth -- and the buoyant, follow-your-dreams note struck at the end only trivializes it.
As Fred Noonan, the often-soused but skillful navigator who vanished along with Earhart, Christopher Eccleston strikes up a prickly chemistry with Swank, while Cherry Jones has her moment in the cockpit as a besotted Eleanor Roosevelt. Excellent period design boasts gleaming re-creations of vintage aircraft, including the twin-engine Lockheed L-10 Electra that Earhart flew to the uncertain end.
Amelia -- Film Review
By Ray Bennet
LONDON -- Freckle-faced, prairie-voiced and fiercely independent, Hilary Swank's depiction of aviator Amelia Earhart in Mira Nair's biographical film "Amelia" is of a high order. It ranks with recent real-life portrayals of Ray Charles by Jamie Foxx and Truman Capote by Philip Seymour Hoffman and could be similarly awards-bound.
The classically structured bio will appeal to grown-ups, history buffs and lovers of aeronautics, but in showing how the flier was one of the most lauded celebrities of her time, it also might appeal to youngsters. Smart marketing will expose the film to students and educators, and Swank's sparkling portrayal could help attract younger women.
Stephanie Carroll's handsome production design re-creates the 1920s and '30s vividly, and Stuart Dryburgh's cinematography captures the wild sensation of being alone high in the sky. Composer Gabriel Yared's orchestral score -- muscular in the aerial scenes, jovial where it needs to be and foreboding in its evocation of Earhart's fate -- ranks with his Academy Award-winning music for "The English Patient."
The screenplay by Ronald Bass and Anna Hamilton Phelan is based on two books about Earhart -- Susan Butler's "East to the Dawn" and Elgin Long's "Amelia Earhart: The Mystery Solved" -- and is almost old-fashioned in its linear path. It provides as much information as is needed for those not familiar with the character without expositional clutter while taking time to show the woman's no-nonsense approach to intimacy as well as the business of flying.
The script has input from Gore Vidal, who is portrayed as a child in the film by William Cuddy. He became close to Earhart when she had an affair with his father, noted aviation pioneer Gene Vidal (Ewan McGregor), and there is a charming scene in which she explains to the frightened boy why her bedroom has walls covered in images from the jungle.
The film is framed by Earhart's ill-fated attempt to fly around the world in 1937 with flashbacks to her introduction to flying and her burst into worldwide fame. Richard Gere plays publisher George Putnam -- who promoted her flights and became her very understanding husband -- with much charm and is matched by McGregor as Vidal.
Very much her own woman, Earhart not only paved the way for female aviators but helped drive the development of aviation at large. In the process, she became one of the first celebrities to create a major marketing bandwagon with her name slapped on any number of household products.
The business of flying in those days was fraught with peril, however, and the film does a good job of creating suspense during Earhart's last flight. Christopher Eccleston makes a fine contribution as her navigator.
Most of all, Earhart wanted to be able to fly free as a bird above the clouds, and director Nair and star Swank make her quest not only understandable but truly impressive.
Edited By Sonic Youth on 1255909225
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