Amelia Mira Nair

Amelia Mira Nair
Part of the struggle in making a biopic is paying tribute to a living figure accurately while balancing compelling storytelling, thematic trajectories and emotional tension, rather than devolving into a tedious pedagogical television narration. This is of particular difficulty since real people with real lives don't tend to follow climactic arcs with a conventional, unifying catharsis, which is where artistic liberties are taken, or sacrificed, to placate either historians or cinematic expectations. In the case of Amelia, Monsoon Wedding director Mira Nair is content in presenting the famous titular aviatrix's much publicized airborne feats in a flat, linear manner, with the occasional clumsy feminist interjection to dote on the obvious mirroring of flying through the air with feminine freedom. Interspersing occasional sequences of her final, doomed 1937 world flight, the film starts with Amelia (Hilary Swank) meeting publisher George Putnam (Richard Gere) as he searches for a camera-friendly female pilot to be a passenger in a transatlantic flight. Disappointed in not manning the plane herself, Earhart goes along with the plan reluctantly, developing a hesitant romance with Putnam incidentally. Episodic detailing of the American aviation pioneer's subsequent solo flight across the Atlantic, along with an affair with Gene Vidal (Ewan McGregor), alleged in Susan Butler's book, East to the Dawn, comprise the rest of the narrative in a fairly disjointed fashion. Even overlooking the reduction of feminism to an adoption and successful application of male ideals and signifiers, in addition to the negation of Earhart's medical problems, the film sprawls through years without much acknowledgement of character progression. Amelia remains single-minded throughout, interacting with an abundance of supporting players that come and go without development or explanation, such as Mia Wasikowska's eager, young Elinor Smith and Christopher Eccleston's Fred Noonan. They pop up to fill in historical gaps, acting merely as ciphers, leaving us with only our overly idealized protagonist to examine and identify with. Swank does make the most of her role but often falls into mimicking, rather than acting, her character, limiting said identification. Included with the DVD are an abundance of Movietone newsreels of Earhart's feats, along with some deleted scenes and a generic "Making of." (Fox)