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dir Mira Nair
scr Ronald Bass, Anna Hamilton Phelan
prd Lydia Dean Pilcher, Kevin Hyman, Ted Waitt
with Hilary Swank, Richard Gere, Ewan McGregor, Christopher Eccleston, Joe Anderson, Mia Wasikowska, Cherry Jones, William Cuddy, Aaron Abrams, Dylan Roberts, Scott Yaphe, Tom Fairfoot
release US 23.Oct.09, UK 13.Nov.09
09/US Fox 1h51
The aviatrix: Swank and Gere
|R E V I E W B Y R I C H C L I N E
This terrific true story has been so overproduced that there's virtually no life left in it. Even though every frame looks exquisite, not one scene rings true because the filmmakers leave all humour and passion off the screen.
In 1928, Amelia Earhart (Swank) bursts onto the dawning aviation scene as a confident pilot giving men a run for their money. Quickly snapped up by promoter George Putman (Gere), her aerial achievements instantly grab media attention. Reluctantly agreeing to marry George if she can keep her independence, she works rather too closely with the government's first aviation chief Gene Vidal (McGregor). And then in 1937 she sets off to fly around the world with navigator Fred Noonan (Eccleston).
The rest is history, of course, as Earhart and Noonan disappeared on the penultimate leg of their trip. But rather than use this well-known fact from the start, the screenwriters make the strange choice to intercut this flight with the rest of Earhart's life, then try to build up some will-they/won't-they make it suspense at the end. Not only does this flatten the film's finale, but it never makes much sense as a framing story either.
This story should bristle with bold characters and heart-stopping achievements, but Nair directs every scene like a big-budget TV advert. The impeccably tailored clothing looks like it's never been worn, and anything metallic (including the shiny planes) has been polished to a gleaming sheen even if it should be battered or dirty. It's very, very pretty, but is so fake that we don't believe it for a minute. In other words, it's so polished and obvious that I wouldn't be surprised to learn that it was actually directed by Ron Howard.
And the fine actors have to bear some blame for making it so earnest. They all give wistful, smiley performances while posing to catch the artificial sunshine in the most flattering way. The film positively glows, but there isn't a sharp edge anywhere, not a whiff of romance or lust in any relationship and no danger or suspense even though Earhart's actions were unprecedented. In fact, this film is so solemn that we miss the fact that Earhart is one of the most important figures from American history.
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© 2009 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall
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