Page 20 THE VILLADOM TIMES I, II & III • November 4, 2009 Heroine’s story would benefit from more pizzazz by Dennis Seuling “Amelia” is a fairly accurate biopic about the career of aviatrix Amelia Earhart, who broke many records in the early years of flying and was the first woman (and second person, after Charles Lindbergh) to fly solo across the Atlantic. The film contains most of the well publicized events of her life, and explores her unusual marriage to publisher George Putnam and her even stranger relationship with Gene Vidal, the founder of TWA. Hilary Swank, who resembles Earhart, plays the daring flier in a performance that is competent, but free of risk. The hair and make-up departments have done their part in transforming the actress physically to Earhart, but the script by Ronald Bass and Anna Hamilton Phelan does not help much. It tries to be inspirational, but also get in juicy speculation about Earhart’s private life. The two goals collide, resulting in a tepid melodrama. Swank has the advantage of building on known facts to create an interesting portrayal. Earhart was an independent woman who excelled in a male-dominated field. She was the most famous celebrity of the era outside of Hollywood. She pioneered celebrity endorsements, and she commanded huge fees for personal appearances at private functions. Swank has been terrific in such films as “Million Dollar Baby” and “Boys Don’t Cry,” which proves that, when given solid material, she rises to the occasion. In “Amelia,” viewers wait for the big scenes, the moments that ring of Oscar, and long to learn more than a Wikipedia capsule summary of the flier’s life. Most of her performance is devoted to the surface -- trying to resemble Earhart, sporting nifty monogrammed jumpsuits and flying goggles, and recreating advertising photo shoots for an array of products. The missing element is depth. Viewers see a fleeting glimpse of a young Earhart in a Kansas cornfield looking up at her first airplane as Swank’s off-screen narration states this was the moment she was captivated by flying. That is about as much as we get about Earhart’s drive to take to the skies. Oddly, Swank uses a Katharine Hepburn-esque speaking cadence, which is distracting since Earhart was a Kansas girl, not a New Englander, though she did come from a privileged background. Hepburn would have been perfect as Earhart if a screen bio had been made in the late ‘30s or early ‘40s. Earhart married George Putnam (Richard Gere), who was responsible for promot- Hilary Swank stars as Depression-era aviatrix Amelia Earhart in ‘Amelia.’ �� ����������������� ��������� Authentic Cuisine from Spain ����������������� OPEN 7 DAYS • LUNCH • DINNER • COCKTAILS ������������ Available Sunday thru Thursday Noon-10pm, Friday until 5:30pm � (Served with Spanish Potatoes) Choice of Appetizer Soup or Salad • Entree �� �� ���������� ������ ing her flying career, publishing a book by her, and signing her to lucrative testimonial deals to fund her costly flying jaunts. She agreed to marry him only after drawing up a forerunner of a pre-nuptial agreement, which set specific conditions, one of which was that she would not be restrained from her own pursuits. Earhart indulges an on-again, off-again interest in Gene Vidal (Ewan McGregor), and the movie halfheartedly toys with a romantic triangle plot. McGregor’s Vidal is on hand mostly to look suave and create a bit of tension. Stage actress Cherry Jones turns up briefly as Eleanor Roosevelt, who takes a spin above Washington with Earhart. Jones does not look like Mrs. Roosevelt, but her acting manages to channel the former first lady. Stephanie Carroll’s production design is impressive, with quite a few vintage aircraft stealing many scenes, and one elaborate near-disaster that was spectacularly staged and edited. Vintage automobiles, clothing, and assorted electronic devices also reflect the times. For a period picture, director Mira Nair falls short on the film’s music. The movie takes place in the late 1920s and 1930s. This was the era when the greats of the American Popular Songbook were actively composing. Instead of demanding a track reflective of those years and incorporating some of these songs, Nair uses a symphonic score by Gabriel Yared that attempts to suggest the exhilaration of flight, but is instead an unwelcome distraction. Nair has turned in a routine biopic, when her subject calls for far more. Earhart was a feminist, a flier, a worldwide celebrity, an author, and a self-promoter. “Amelia” portrays her life in ho-hum, linear fashion. If “Amelia” were a play, the writer and director would be forced to provide a deeper characterization. The big mystery about Earhart is her disappearance during an around-the-world trip in 1937 along with navigator Fred Noonan (Christopher Eccleston). The last 20 minutes of the film depict those moments with suspense and recreations of radio communications by Earhart and a Coast Guard cutter below. Rated PG, “Amelia” is disappointing. I’m not one to espouse Hollywood excess, but in this case, a bit more pizzazz would have made for a more involving movie. 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