The mystery about Mira Nair?s Amelia is how a life so soaring and adventurous has translated into a film so staid and leaden. Mira?s best films like Monsoon Wedding have an invigorating energy and a sense of intoxication, or what she calls masti.
But here, she chooses to tell the life story of one of America?s greatest icons, the aviatrix Amelia Earhart, withholding all vitality and fun. In a word, Amelia is a bore.
Amelia Earhart?s life seems made for film. She was the first woman to fly across the Atlantic. She was an aviation pioneer, a feminist icon, a marketing phenomenon who sold luggage, chewing gum, her own fashion line and she was a woman who refused to play by any rules ? when she married publisher GP Putnam, played here by Richard Gere, she wrote him a letter saying: ?I shall not hold you to any medieval code of faithfulness to me nor shall I consider myself bound similarly.?
In 1937, Earhart disappeared over the Pacific Ocean while trying to circumnavigate the globe. The film begins with Amelia?s last flight and tells us the rest of her story in flashback.
Amelia is gorgeously shot and painstakingly produced ? there are lovely period details and Oscar-winner Hillary Swank, in cropped hair and leather jackets, makes a pitch-perfect Amelia. But unlike Meryl Streep recreating Julia Child in Julie and Julia, Swank never manages to make Amelia flesh and blood.
We have little sense of her passionate personality or her struggle. She seems to be a chirpy, feisty tough cookie from frame one to last. The screenplay, adapted from two biographies, is constructed as a checklist of her achievements. It?s good-looking and predictable.
The film only takes off in the climax in which Mira recreates Amelia?s doomed last flight and her communications with radio operators, who are trying to help her to safety. There is a real anguish and sense of loss here.
Finally then, Amelia, despite the stellar cast, lavish production values and beautiful vintage planes, feels like an opportunity lost. I recommend that you wait for the DVD.