Amy Adams had a decent stab at it in Night At The Museum 2, but it’s hard to imagine more apt casting for Amelia Earhart than Hilary Swank.
The boyish figure, the firm jawline, the ready grin – all attributes she shares with the world-famous woman flyer of the ’30s.
So close is the match that a few splicedin newsreels and stills of the real Earhart never jar. And Swank’s risk-taking screen persona provides a perfect fit, too.
When the star of Boys Don’t Cry and Million Dollar Baby speaks the line, “Who wants a life imprisoned in safety?” it rings entirely true.
A shame, then, that Amelia lacks a better match between subject and filmmakers. Director Mira Nair has an impressive track record: her films Salaam Bombay! and Monsoon Wedding fizz with insight and vitality. But those qualities don’t make it to the screen here.
Earhart’s a fascinating figure – the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic, she vanished somewhere in the Pacific in 1937 during her attempted round-the-world flight – and Nair’s admiration for her bravery, spirit and independence is evident. But perhaps that’s the trouble.
Weighed down by Nair’s awestruck gaze, and a sluggish, spell-it-out script, Amelia winds up fatally slow and reverential.
There’s no question about whether this film looks great. The old planes have been lovingly restored, and the worldspanning locations certainly pay dividends.
As Earhart’s husband, publisher GP Putnam, Richard Gere relies rather too much on eye-crinkling charm, though Ewan McGregor makes the most of an underwritten role as her lover Gene Vidal (yes, the father of Gore).
There are flashes of humour, too: Eleanor Roosevelt (Cherry Jones) bouncing with excitement as she’s taken for a spin, or the scene where Amelia lands in Ireland… or so she thinks.
But for all Swank’s appeal, we never get to know Earhart from the inside – and like her final, fatal flight, Amelia feels like a terribly long haul.
A solid and respectable but reticent biopic that always holds its subject at a distance. Swank is spot-on casting and the period detail’s impeccable but, unlike our heroine, the film never quite gets off the ground.