Aviatrix biopic crash lands
October 29, 2009
When it comes to the retelling of history, it seems that, as far as memories go, we can swing one of two ways. We can either vie for the attention by regaling others with times and events that rattle our thoughts and bones (exaggerated or not), or we can travel by conventional route, repeating names, dates and actions as though we were the textbook ourselves. Depending on audience and topic, both methods seem to have their time and place. Unless of course, you’re Hollywood, in which the facts don’t really seem to matter as long as you play up the information you have enough to cash in.
Generally, I would think this would be pretty easy for the Paramounts and the Fox Searchlights of the industry, especially when it comes to the biographies of history (I mean, they are renowned for a reason). It seems, however, that even the most infamous of characters throughout time can’t always catch the right break, or in this case the right wind.
Hollywood’s newest attempt at recounting a historical life is Mira Nair’s “Amelia,” which examines the life of aviatrix Amelia Earhart. Opening with her last and final flight, the story travels back through her own memories to recount her life and stardom. The plot jumps from memory to reality quickly and focuses on not only our heroine’s aviation and skill, but also her personal and romantic life.
Though individually I’m sure the facts that made up this remarkable woman were interesting, sadly, when put together, they created a loose and disjointed plot that would put anyone into a tailspin. While Nair tries desperately to cover every angle that made up the woman behind the wings, the audience is stuck watching Ms. Earhart jump from a plane, to the bedroom of her manager, to a dinner table with Eleanor Roosevelt, to the bedroom of her business partner, and then back into a plane again. This along with the completely forced and mechanical performances of Hillary Swank and Richard Gere leave you coming out of the theatre with not only the disappointment that you already knew the ending but also with the frustration that you still hardly knew the beginning.
While these aspects definitely overshadowed most of the positives of the film, fear not, some good did shine through. Though painful to watch on screen, Swank’s performance off-screen, as a narrator, was done quite well, especially in moments of pure flight, when she read the thoughts and emotions Amelia herself actually had when flying over the Atlantic. The music and scenery too, were both composed classically and shot beautifully, giving you a planet earth-esque impression of how the world once was, and the hope it gave to people with a dream of flight.
And while I wish I could say that these traits fixed what otherwise was lost amid poor dialogue, ill-fitting plot and horrible accents, I regret to say I simply can’t. While a noble attempt, it seems Hollywood just doesn’t have the talent or the time to truly capture the heart and life that made up such a momentously historical woman. Indeed, it seems that some parts of history are just better left unsaid and better left off screen.
Katie Heaton is a student at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls.