When I heard that two-time Oscar winner Hilary Swank was playing aviation legend Amelia Earhart in the movie of her life, I actually squealed. I couldn’t think of a more appropriate person to play the icon, and was really anticipating the movie. But when I started seeing trailers for the film that made it look like a Lifetime Movie of the Week – lots of slo-mo glamour shots, sweeping music, and kissy-face with Richard Gere – I started to get a sinking feeling. Looks like I’m not the only one: the current critical consensus of “Amelia” says it’s a dud.
Amelia is a frustratingly old-school, Hollywood-style, inspirational biopic about Amelia Earhart that doesn’t trust a viewer’s independent assessment of the famous woman pictured on the screen. The mystery we ought to be paying attention to is: What really happened on the legendary American aviator’s final, fatal flight in 1937? But the question audiences are left with is this: How could so tradition-busting a role model have resulted in so square, stiff, and earthbound a movie? Why present such a modern woman in such a fusty format? Dressed for the title role in a wardrobe of jumpsuits, leather jackets, scarves, and slinky evening wear dashing enough to stop air traffic, Hilary Swank’s Earhart doesn’t so much talk as make stump speeches even when she’s at her own breakfast table. And director Mira Nair (The Namesake), working from an overexplanatory script by Ron Bass and Anna Hamilton Phelan (based on dual biographies by Susan Butler and Mary S. Lovell), overloads the picture with a cargo of messages, so much so that she deadens her subject’s spirit. Some of these talking points are aimed at today’s teenage girls who might admire the subject’s highly personal fashion sense; others go out to older women who cherish her feminist cred. All of them add up to banners that might as well be flown from an aircraft tail over a beach: Amelia Earhart lived free in life and love! And Fly! She! Must!
The aerial photography in this biopic looks slick, as does two-time Oscar winner Hilary Swank as the rangy pioneer aviatrix Amelia Earhart, who went missing in 1937 while trying to circumnavigate the globe in her flying machine. But, oh mama, the minute the characters open their mouths, the onslaught of clichés brings the movie down in flames. The god-awful script by Ron Bass (Rain Man) and Anna Hamilton Phelan (Gorillas in the Mist) is assaultive in its insistence that “dreams have no boundaries” and other sentiments that even Hallmark would reject as too much. “Who wants a life imprisoned in safety?” Amelia asks in a voice-over. And you want to shout, “This movie does, honey.” There’s not a real or spontaneous minute in it.
This is a huge bummer. I guess I’ll wait for it to come out on Lifetime, or Oxygen.
In less surprising news, the sixth installment in the “Saw” franchise also left critics underwhelmed, begging the question: do we really need six of these crapfests? Someone please explain to me why these torture porn fests are getting greenlighted. Also looking to cause box-office nausea is the latest film to hop on the Vampire bandwagon, “Cirque du Freak: The Vampire’s Assistant,” which EW gives a generous D+. My prediction: “Where the Wild Things Are” will reign again this weekend – by default.
Here’s Hilary Swank with Mira Nair and Mariska Hargitay at the world premiere of ‘Amelia’ at the Paris theatre in New York City on Tuesday. Images thanks to WENN.com .