STUDIO: 20th Century Fox
MSRP: $29.99
RUNNING TIME: 111 Minutes

  • Making Amelia
  • The Power of Amelia Earhart
  • Movietone News Reels

I begged to review this DVD because I was the girl that grew up using almost every single research paper and presentation opportunity through middle school to mainline on Amelia Earhart. I was the tomboy fascinated by a woman who wasn’t afraid to fly planes. Thinking I knew who she was, I popped in the disc and began to watch this as a history buff. And I hated it. I wasn’t measuring Hilary Swank’s performance or the direction of Mira Nair against the woman I thought I knew from history. It’s just that a few things usurped Amelia’s magic. One was her overly-studied delivery of dialogue, and the other was the director’s need to turn Amelia’s life into a love story.

Spoiler: all her dreams go “boom.”

We are to understand that the voice-over narration is Amelia reading from her own words from history. I’m sure it’s a device to add depth-of-character to the woman we simply know from intriguing photographs from history. But between her awkward, over-studied accent and the kind of faux emotion she puts on as if she’s reading to children, I can’t find a way to get any closer to her character. I had a hard time liking her character, and I really wanted to like her. In some movies, you don’t need to like the main character. In this one, it’s vital. We need to be proud of her. Love her. Be fascinated by her. In awe. I don’t want to see her as a historical study, which is what Swank’s performance made Amelia feel like to me. In fact, when they talk about making the movie they said they didn’t want the costumes to look like museum pieces. This represents excellent intentions, and yet you look at how overly studied Hilary Swank’s delivery of dialogue is, and you know she missed the boat (plane?)–she made it overly historically accurate and that took me right out of the story.

Spoiler: Her last drink was salt water.

Her character is full of meaningful smiles, but they are face deep. They have no depth. We never seem to know what makes her character tick. The only clues we get are voice-overs that sound like they are poorly read rather than spoken. We’re to understand that they are excerpts that cone from her own writing, but I don’t care. it adds to her emptiness and actually isolates us more from her character.

Spoiler: She doesn’t make it.

Something I did love, and wish they touched more on was Amelia’s contributions to the world outside of flying. They actually cut out the blurbs about her defining herself as a social worker. I do understand that we are bound by the approximate two hour time frame, and that the intentions of the director were not to give us a blow by blow historical account of everything she did every year. I already grew up with that, having read numerous historical accounts of her life.

Spoiler: Her tits get obliterated.

What I didn’t need that the director did, was to have her story turned into a love story. I didn’t appreciate it. And in fact, it came out of nowhere. There was no romantic tension–just an odd series of events of them in the same space, and then in one scene he just leans in and kisses her and she barely has a reaction. There is a poor connection with them in the beginning–no chemistry at all. I understand that the way the relationship went was unconventional, yet there was no chemistry on screen. What was I missing? We never ever see her as he sees her. We watch him interact with her, but we can’t invest in his feelings for her because we are shut out. Small cuts of him grabbing her hand were illustrative and not organic. I felt like I was being told a story as a child instead of being trusted to understand the story as an adult.

Spoiler: She belly flops into the abyss.

I assume that the love story was included as a way to humanize a black and white historical figure–to soften and sensualize a sterile image of a woman. But why include a love interest? Why feel compelled to sexualize a woman from history? Amelia glazed in a blanket of sexuality is not the only way I want to consume her. It doesn’t make her more interesting. She already is on her own.

They decided to lose the plot line where Putnam, Gere’s character, divorces his wife for her. I found the deleted scenes vital to the plot after the fact, and found myself saying no wonder it felt so disjointed and so sudden to be slammed with his proposal for relationship and marriage. I usually err on the side of agreeing with the director for scenes being cut out. I’ll find them interesting, but able to see how they didn’t serve the story. Here, I find it hurts the progression of the story.

Spoiler: She fails at airborne.

Richard Gere’s performance seems effortless. I found myself in awe as I was watched a sex symbol I grew up with (Pretty Woman, Unfaithful) not lose a beat. I really expected him to. But he plays intimacy with such a strong heartbeat just beneath his skin and behind his eyes and in his stance. He elevates the film. Now this is a sexist observation and should be separated from his performance, but darnit, he looks great.

With all of the disappointment I felt, the movie completely won me over
by the end. The way they handle the inevitable crash and disappearance
is fantastic. I felt myself nodding my head at the end, with a small
smile. I was so proud. I felt the end honored the Amelia I feel I know
from history.

Spoiler: She smashes herself away.

And then just before the credits, for the first time in the whole film, I see a still of the real Amelia, black and white, staring back at us through time. I manufactured a couple of tears! There is footage of her and some more historical photographs. I can’t tell you what this did to make the story come full circle for me. It was deeply emotional and truly moving. I was arrested. And that doesn’t happen to me all the time. And I’m especially surprised I ended up feeling that way after such a poorly structured film.

Spoiler: She turns into a sea skeleton.

The extras leave a bit to be desired. The deleted scenes help to flesh out the story better. They shouldn’t ever be used to do that, but it does showcase a plot line completely wiped out of the theatrical release. The “making of” feature was fairly interesting to watch. But what I really was doing was trying to get through all of that to see more footage of the real woman, and to see photographs of her and feed my hunger for her. I chose “The Power of Amelia” on the extras menu, and started the second half of my burrito. And? It was just another “making of” feature with a hint of promotion. I was disappointed.

Spoiler: She smashes.

For all the negativity toward this movie, I do recommend it. It’s beautiful. The giant metal objects and large spaces and the juxtaposition of organic elements to technology was satisfying. If you’re a costume freak, don’t get overly excited. They weren’t hell bent on making this a costume flick, and it didn’t need to be to be a successful film. If you love the era of the 1920s and 30s, you will enjoy the film for sure with its saturated colors. If you love a love story, you will be swept away by the music. It couldn’t be more perfect.

Spoiler: She forgot her swim suit for the foreverfloat.

Lastly, I’ll say this: If you have ever been fascinated with Amelia Earhart as a child or have found yourself caught up in her mystery, you will be satisfied with this film. Even with the lack of history in the extras, and even with the love story nearly usurping the other elements, you will be won by the last scene. You will feel that things have come full circle and that she has been honored. You’ll walk away loving Amelia more–and therein is success. It’s evidence that the film allows its subject to transcend the medium. I’ll offer you a reluctant thumbs up, Mira Nair and all involved. But you got my thumbs up.

7 out of 10