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.
Run time: 111 mins
In Theaters: Friday 23rd October 2009
Box Office USA: $14.2M
Box Office Worldwide: $19.3M
Distributed by: Fox Searchlight Pictures
Production compaines: AE Electra Productions, Avalon Pictures, Fox Searchlight Pictures
Contactmusic.com: 2 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 20%
Fresh: 32 Rotten: 125
IMDB: 5.8 / 10
Director: Mira Nair
Producer: Lydia Dean Pilcher, Kevin Hyman, Ted Waitt
Starring: Hilary Swank as Amelia Earhart, Richard Gere as George Putnam, Aaron Abrams as Slim Gordon, Ewan McGregor as Gene Vidal, Christopher Eccleston as Fred Noonan, Joe Anderson as Bill Stultz, Cherry Jones as Eleanor Roosevelt, Mia Wasikowska as Elinor Smith, Dylan Roberts as Leo Bellarts, Scott Yaphe as William Dalten, Tom Fairfoot as Balfour, Jeremy Akerman as Sheriff, Ryann Shane as Young Amelia