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Reviewed on 2009-10-24
Received[2]  out of 4 stars
Two-time Oscar winner Hilary Swank (“Boys Don’t Cry” and “Million Dollar Baby”) stars in this biopic about the girl from the Kansas prairie who became a world-famous aviatrix.

Despite a striking resemblance, Swank spends most of her time sitting in the cockpit with no expression or striking poses for the camera. Rather than capitalizing on a daring adventure into the wild blue yonder and doing justice to the memory of a legendary feminist, the plain vanilla story leaves you empty. You come out learning nothing more about Amelia Earhart than she died too young. She was just shy of her 40th birthday when her plane dropped off the radar while attempting to fly around the world in 1937.

The movie is weighted down by a weak and bland script, wooden acting and a sluggish pace. Boredom sets in at the 90-minute mark as a superficial approach makes all the characters seem one-dimensional.

There is no chemistry between Swank and her handsome leading men, Richard Gere and Ewan McGregor. Gere plays charming publisher George Putnam. He marries Earhart and the age difference is very noticeable. He is jealous and doesn’t trust his wife when she is with Gene Vidal (McGregor), an aviation pioneer.

A short-circuited romantic triangle is soft-pedaled due to the constraints of the PG rating. Earhart shares a few passionate kisses in a hotel elevator with Vidal. Subsequently, Putnam finds and reads aloud a love poem written by Earhart to Vidal.

The movie’s strengths are an attention-grabbing orchestral score by composer Gabriel Yared (“The English Patient”), appealing costumes and production designs that re-create the 1920s and ’30s and brilliant cinematography that works best in the aerial scenes over mountains, seas and deserts.

A night flight with First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt (Cherry Jones) in the co-pilot’s seat is the highlight moment.

Swank spouts a lot of meaningless platitudes in voice-over narrations running throughout the film. Director Mira Nair (“Monsoon Wedding,” “The Namesake” and “Vanity Fair”) attempts to offer authenticity by sprinkling in black-and-white archival newsreel footage and newspaper headlines.

The movie could have gotten more mileage out of how precarious and extremely dangerous it was to fly a plane. Earhart was a risk-taking daredevil whose preparations appear to have put safety on the back burner.

Rather than endure this misfire better suited for commercial television about the freckle-faced “Lady Lindy,” you should rent instead two exceptional films about the same era, “Cinderella Man” and “Seabiscuit.”

Review By:
Keith Cohen "The Movie Guy"


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