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Amelia Lacking Passion

Published October 22, 2009 in Movie Reviews
By Fred Topel | Image property of Fox Searchlight
AmeliaAmelia
Amelia tells the story of how Amelia Earhart accomplished her historic flights, but fails to portray any of the passion for it. When there was a movie like The Aviator that made flying look awesome and revolutionary, I know it’s possible to convey that.

Review: Amelia


The biopic is structured around Earhart’s fateful worldwide flight, which is a totally unnecessary framing device. Periods of her life are separated by a few flyover shots tracking the progress of her doomed final journey. About 80 minutes in, the film catches up and ends in “real time.” So what? Just tell it beginning to end.

Understanding the history of Amelia Earhart is interesting. It starts as a convoluted business and media deal. She has an expensive hobby so the issue of her art versus the commerce to keep it going could be fascinated. They only touch on a few issues though, the practical disadvantage of extra parts when the financiers insist on extra safety precautions. The commerce of endorsements and merchandising would be fascinating, but it feels like the film covers that out of obligation, but never involves the issues in the story.

There’s good tech talk. When Hilary Swank talks about wind factors and fuel levels, it sounds like she knows flying. I’d trade some of this accuracy for a little passion though. I mean, this woman loved to fly and this movie shows it just as something she did. That’s an accomplishment, but not one as big as revolutionizing cinema or the aviation industry itself.

It doesn’t sell the thrill of flying at all. Amelia seems to have a wide eyed wonder for the air, but a really sedate enthusiasm for it. Amelia meditates on flying, but don’t tell me about it. Show me.



There are a few minor effects of flight like bouncing around the cabin or old doors flying open. That’s minor action. Weather and gas leaks provide other minor obstacles, but mellow is a nice way to put it. Lethargic would be another. There’s one magnificent crash and the final problems with radio communication actually have tension. Of course, by that point we know what happens to her.

It doesn’t do much for Amelia as a feminist figure either. She tough talks a drunk and she doesn’t sell out her dreams for a man, but that’s not that impressive. She’s already an expert at that point so they defer to her. She is ironic so she doesn’t take herself too seriously. That’s an endearing quality. There’s one scene where she addresses the potential issue with tomboy interests and being feminine. That would be fascinating to explore. It’s never mentioned again.

Her romance with George Putnam (Richard Gere) is sweet. It’s a shy and gentle courtship and marriage. Near the end though, when they talk about coming home, that almost feels like she’s saying, “Two days to retirement.” Come on.

Ultimately it seems like they made an Amelia Earhart movie just to make one. I mean, what was the point of showing her journey. Yeah, it was hard for her to prove herself and weather the speculation. Then she did it. The end.

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Fred Topel
Sources: Image property of Fox Searchlight
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