Amelia - a very inspiring woman and a rather inspiring film


Amelia (USA/Canada, 2009)

Seen: Tuesday, 23rd February 2010 (cinema)
Runtime: 111′
Director: Mira Nair
Cast: Hilary Swank, Richard Gere, Ewan McGregor, Christopher Eccleston
Production House: Fox Searchlight Pictures, Avalon Pictures
Plot: (from imdb)

A look at the life of legendary American pilot Amelia Earhart, who disappeared while flying over the Pacific Ocean in 1937 in an attempt to make a flight around the world.


Impressions In Short
It’s a great story and it’s worth watching for that. I don’t think the film is as good as the story though.

More About the Film
Mira Nair usually takes a very classic kind of approach to filmmaking and this film is no exception. I suppose that’s why “as a film” it does not appeal to me that much. I like when films have some stylistic quirks. The kind of shots and narration she uses are very classic and obvious.
But to me the film also has another major weakness. The central character of the story is of course Amelia, but there are three men in her life that influence the story quite a bit and two of those three male characters just didn’t work in the film. To really flesh out the character of Amelia, you have to show what a total weirdo she was in the context of that world and reality. Hilary Swank did an awesome job, but when it came to her scenes with Richard Gere and Ewan McGregor, it just didn’t work. I totally didn’t grasp Amelia’s relationships with George and Gene.
How did she fall in love with George? The way it’s written, it’s very abrupt and sudden. All of a sudden he hits on her and she immediately responds. There’s no build-up. What was the attraction between them? I suppose George must have been a very modern-thinking man to have wanted to marry a woman like Amelia. And yet I don’t get how he fitted into that whole world and reality. Was he a weirdo who saw women differently than other men did? Or was it just Amelia? How difficult was she to adjust to? There are few answers to this in the script and even fewer in Richard Gere’s performance.
The attraction between Amelia and Gene is even vaguer to me. Just like with George it happens rather out of the blue in the script. And neither the script nor McGregor’s performance offers up any answers.
I felt that Gere and McGregor were basically expressing their own value system in their performances. Obviously, the fact that they’re interested in a project like this shows that they find crazy women like Amelia very interesting and value that sort of independence in a woman. But should those values translate so directly into their performances as George and Gene? What Amelia did in the context of that reality was much, much weirder than it is in the context of today and I just felt that adjustment wasn’t there in their performances.
In a way it was Christopher Eccleston, who saved the film for me. It was he (and not Hilary Swank - even though she was great), who made the character of Amelia come alive for me. He doesn’t appear until very late in the film, but he totally changed the tone of it. You can feel precisely on what levels Frank and Amelia connect and communicate. Theirs is not a romantic relationship - perhaps that’s part of what made a difference. I loved the way he reacts to her. Some of the repartee between them is awesome. You can immediately see which parts of her are difficult to accept and why he accepts them anyway. In a way they are both outsiders whose skills can be discredited. Hers because she’s a woman and his because he’s an alcoholic. But despite some initial uneasiness, they both see past that and they relate to each other on a very practical and professional level. There’s a nice build-up to their relationship as well. Their final scenes together are amazing. Near the end we get a scene where Frank finally does get drunk and the conversation between them (he hits on her) is quite something. That’s like the only time when a guy hits on her in the film and I understand exactly what he’s hoping to get out of it ;) And then the final scenes on the plane are completely nerve-wracking. I don’t think they would have worked so well without Christopher Eccleston. It wasn’t until Christopher Eccleston appeared in the film that I got a full sense of how dangerous what Amelia was trying to do actually was.
On a final note, something that really appealed to me about the story was how it showed that women have big dreams in the same way that men have them. There have always been women who have not been cut out to be house wives. Amelia is very conscious of this and has no insecurities about it. There’s a great scene between Amelia and George where she states the conditions on which she’s willing to enter the marriage. She’s basically explaining how important independence is to her and how just settling down into a conventional marriage would totally kill her. I think that to this day women have problems explaining things so bluntly and plainly. We all have different aspirations and different comfort zones. For every woman who is comfortable entering a conventional sort of marriage, there is a woman who is not. It would be so much easier if women were secure enough to be able to explain their boundaries.

Yes for the story which is amazing (especially if you like films which have a very strong and central female character), yes for Hilary Swank and definitely yes for Christopher Eccleston (they both give absolutely top notch performances). But if none of these hold any appeal for you then it might not be your kind of movie.

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