At Least Hilary Swank Looks Like an Amelia

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Amelia
Directed by Mira Nair
Fox Searchlight
Opens October 23

Hilary Swank, slender, toothsome, and long-jawed, is a gussied-up physical match for Amelia Earhart—and this is the only meaningful way in which Amelia resurrects the aviatrix. Drawn from two Earhart bios, Mira Nair's dull hagiography comes in about 111 minutes too long. Swank's Earhart is all grinning can-do, at fault for nothing, her only conflicts coming through the misunderstanding of a chauvinist, materialist society unprepared for her barnstorming beauty. Beyond her record flights, the film covers Earhart's courtship and marriage to publicist G.P. Putnam (Richard Gere), an architect of the Lindbergh legend, and her free-love affair with Gore's dad, Gene Vidal (Ewan McGregor). Amelia is pinned uncomfortably between "Chase your dreams" PG-safe and aspirations of sophistication. For a woman to write, as we see Earhart doing, a pre-nuptial condition that "I shall not hold you to any medieval code of faithfulness to me, nor shall I consider myself bound to you" would be gutsy in 2009, not to mention mere years after suffrage, but there's little sense of the emotional risk Earhart's taking with that declaration, and the resulting ménage a trois lacks heat. Period details, from 1928 to 1937, are so clichéd that someone might as well announce on screen, "Gosh, these '20s certainly are Roaring!"

 
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