Amelia DVD Review
Transporting legendary sky nomad Amelia Earhart to the screen is nothing new. Various sightings and incarnation across the decades range from Amy Adams in Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian, Rosalind Russell in Flight For Freedom, Close Encounters Of The Third Kind and Star Trek: Voyager, to Diane Keaton and even as a side dish to a biopic about Shirley Temple.
Now Indian director Mira Nair (Vanity Fair, Monsoon Wedding) tosses in her two cents on the topic of this daring woman and compulsive danger junkie, who in 1937 at the age of thirty-nine, mysteriously disappeared during an attempted flight around 'the waistline of the world.' Numerous theories and legends have abounded since then, including a persistent rumor that she was shot down and executed by the Japanese over Saipan Island, for her role as a WWII US spy and an American version of Tokyo Rose.
But Nair's screen perspective on Earhart's enormously colorful life, based on the writings of Susan Butler (East To The Dawn) and Mary S. Lovell (The Sound Of Wings) is limited to her personal and pre-feminist tendencies as fuel for her unusual aspirations for a woman back then. And like other movies out this year, including Coco Before Chanel and Trucker, Earhart's eagerness to enter into a traditionally male vocation - aviation and an emphasized tendency to behave mannishly, is linked to dysfunctional relationships with fathers or other male figures. Rather than, say, a healthy impulse to break into endeavors previously off limits to women.
Hilary Swank, who bears an uncanny resemblance to Earhart, plays the title character with somewhat rigid and overly iconic, though euphoric zest, while seeming to self-consciously channel the stilted speech of Katharine Hepburn. While decidedly miscast in the role of the faithless and so to speak flighty heiress' publisher, passive devoted lover and eventual reluctantly chosen spouse George P. Putnam, is Richard Gere.
Which is quite a radical switchup from his early infamous macho charm as that American Gigolo, to the toothy tomboy in trouser's, well, designated screen bitch. And though the implication here seems to be that Putnam suffered silently and somewhat cruelly as 'Lady Lindy' ran off for a time with Gore Vidal's fabulously wealthy widower dad, fellow pilot Gene (Ewan McGregor), Putnam in reality himself abandoned his wife and children to be with Earhart.
And aside from taking the rap here in her personal life for daring to be an independent woman, while the film cheers her on for her fearless feats in the air, the inherent pioneering escapades in those early years of aviation and the implied dangers, are not adequately dramatically conveyed. Rather, there's a sense of serene liftoffs of wobbly tin can relics that pale in comparison to all we know now about the challenge of ever more futuristic ventures into the above and beyond.
As such, the film Amelia flies above the fray, barely skimming the surface of a life and time, including traumatic world wars and the Great Depression. And while Earhart was no airhead, insisting on her personal space both literally and vertically, a story more anchored on the ground in her historical moment, would have made for a far more richly rendered ride.
20th Century Fox Home Entertainment
DVD Features: Deleted scenes; Featurettes: Making Amelia; The Power of Amelia Earhart; Movietone Newsreels; Trailers.
BLU-Ray Extras: Digital Copy; Featurettes: The Plane Behind the Legend; Re-Constructing the Planes of Amelia.
Prairie Miller is a multimedia journalist online, in print and on radio. Contact her through NewsBlaze.
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