Being a celebrity does not automatically make someone interesting. Even with the creative license that comes with your typical Hollywood biopic, “Amelia” portrays 1930s aviation pioneer and role model Amelia Earhart as a pleasant but frankly dull person. Even the parts that dealt with Earhart compromising her integrity in order to achieve her dreams – which she did a lot – were boring.
Hilary Swank plays the title character, a Kansas girl with a dream to fly. She meets with George Putnam (Richard Gere), a Colonel Tom Parker type who agrees to let Earhart “fly” across the Atlantic – though she was in fact only a passenger on the flight while two men flew the plane – because he knows that Earhart will attract both attention and money. The two quickly become an item, and in order to finance her flights, George has Amelia hawking more products than Krusty the Klown. Amelia eventually puts her foot down and insists on doing another transatlantic flight solo, and as her celebrity status rises, she finds herself working as a government consultant, taking Eleanor Roosevelt (Cherry Jones) for night flights, and developing feelings for West Point flight instructor Gene Vidal (Ewan McGregor). Then she drops the big bombshell on George: she wants to fly around the world.
Watching this movie is a lot like watching Pierce Brosnan in “Mamma Mia.” It’s trying so hard to do well, but everything about it is laborious, from the acting to the voiceovers to the score to the dialogue. (God help them, they couldn’t even make Victoria Falls look like the wonder of the world that it is.) The movie makes frequent cuts to Earhart’s final trip around the world, where Swank delivers flowery prose about oceans and freedom and the beauty of life. It reads like a 30-year-old Hallmark card. Those words may very well have been from a journal that Earhart kept; if they were, they should have stayed there. If they weren’t, they could have used a serious punch-up.
“Amelia” is surely the biggest production that director Mira Nair (“The Namesake,” “Monsoon Wedding”) has made to date, and while it would be easy to say that the scope of the project overwhelmed her, it would be wrong to make her sole scapegoat. Seasoned vet Ron Bass provided the screenplay, but his work here is more “Stepmom” than “Rain Man.” The actors didn’t bring anything to the table either, including the usually dependable Swank. There is far too much talent in this production to result in something so forgettable. Amelia Earhart may not have lived the most dramatic life – which, for the record, is a good thing – but she deserved a more dramatic movie than this.