Movie News & Reviews

Script isn't there for Swank in 'Amelia'

The movie industry must have caught on to the fact Halloween hastransitioned from a children's holiday to one big adult party whereall the men get drunk and all the women dress slutty, becauseapparently they don't trust us to not be too hungover to go see anynew releases this weekend.

-- Local show times, theaters.

Anything, that is, but Amelia. I've been to 60-odd movies thisyear, meaning I've been exposed to roughly 600 hours of trailers. Notone of them was for Amelia, leaving me with no option but toconclude it chronicled the up-and-down lives of that golden celebrityfamily, the Estevez-Sheens.

That family must go way back, because all I got to see was some ladyvrooming around in a bunch of planes so old I think they were poweredby steam and Odin. It was exciting stuff nonetheless, but never riskeddigging below the surface of what this Amelia person was all about.

Hilary Swank (as Amelia Earhart) has wanted to fly since childhood. In1928, funded by publisher/promoter Richard Gere, she's given thechance to be the first woman to fly across the Atlantic — not as thepilot, but as a glorified passenger.

That's just the start of Swank's ambition. Using her fame and thelovestruck Gere's skill at public relations to drum up funds, she'sable to fly across the Atlantic on her own. Though Gere's able to talkher into marriage, the dangers of her life provide a steady strain ontheir relationship.

The best part of any biopic is the early years. That's when we get tosee them down and out, scuffling for any opportunity they can layhands on, marrying that first wife they later trade in for a younger,slimmer model, doubting themselves but never letting go.

More importantly, that's when we get to know them as people.

Amelia doesn't really have any of that, which may be why it'sso damn hard to get a handle on the woman tooling around in all thosebad-ass prop planes. Beginning with the event that launched her intoprominence, it then moves into a string of lectures and publicappearances that do nothing to get us closer to what she was reallylike.

You ever tried to get to know someone at a lecture? No matter how hardyou flash your bare chest at Senator Murray, she's just going to go onwith her prepared marks about "education" and "leading the state inthe right direction." She's got her game face on, not her face-face.

Amelia tries to get us inside its lead's head by reading abunch of her no doubt real-life letters, as if being treated to reamsof elaborately phrased prose is going to make her character moreintimate, but that's just a different side of that impersonal publicface. Swank throws a lot into her performance, but the script justisn't there for her.

Too bad, because it turns out Earhart's life was pretty dangedinteresting! (For instance, did you know she flew planes?) Leapingfrom milestone to milestone with no clear picture of her subject,director Mira Nair can't work up much drama, even when Swank isliterally risking her life.

By the time it reaches its tragic and mysterious end, it's clearEarhart's story is worth telling. As for Amelia, it's too heavyon the history and too light on the woman who made it.

Grade: C+