In the old days, Hollywood effortlessly churned out glossy commercial vehicles about history makers like Louis Pasteur, Alexander Graham Bell, and Madame Curie–schoolbook-like material turned into films which, against all odds, managed to get good notices and an audience too.
And the biopic stayed fresh through the decades, with Oscar-type films about Gandhi, Malcolm X, Ali, Nixon, Erin Brockovich, Ray Charles, and Johnnie Cash all winning kudos, even if they by necessity molded the truth to fit the cinematic form.
But this year the genre seems to have gotten swine flu.
Amelia just opened to anemic reviews, some critics suggesting that the presentation of aviatrix Amelia Earhart’s personal life is so blah only “Sully” could have kept it from blowing apart on crash-landing.
Coco Before Chanel, I thought, was a big bore–and who really cared about the designer’s private affairs, especially if they weren’t going to include her fascinating flirtation with the Nazi cause?
And Bright Star was a sensual look at John Keats’ love life, though throngs weren’t exactly queuing up to get a peak at the private side of a Romantic poet.
So what needs to be done to review the biopic? Bring Balloon Boy to the big screen, to the orgasmic delight of his dad?
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on October 27, 2009