Nov 30, 2009

[Movies] Amelia (2009)

AmeliaAs the end of any years draws closer, you inevitably get into that weird movie phase when all the movies hitting the theaters seem to be aiming for Oscar nominations. You know what I mean - the serious dramas and the art films, the amazing character performances and the special effects bonanzas. End of year means end of movie season, and thus the studios move away from just releasing the movies that are sure to draw in the crowds, but instead move on to the films that might just win all the different awards and thus have to be paid for by the more mass market appealing movies released during the summer.

It's a vicious cycle, I know.

Still, there are some decent bids out there and I guess we do need to give them a fair shot. Then again, you also get those actors who are clearly making Oscar bids, but in order to do so rely on the types of characters that may have garnered them critical acclaim in the past. You get for some pretty heavy stereotyping or typecasting, but that's Hollywood for you, eh?

January 11, Amelia Earhart flies from Hawaii.Image via Wikipedia

Amelia is an interesting dramatic look at the life of famous aviatrix, Amelia Earhart (Hillary Swank). The movie starts with her early interests in flying leading her to meeting publisher George Putnam (Richard Gere) who makes a deal with her to "command" a flight across the Atlantic, thus making her the first woman ever to do so. While she wasn't going to be piloting the plane herself, it was still going to be an achievement and something that automatically lead to a book deal and perhaps lots of money for both. This business relationship evolves over time to become a romantic one as the two break more and more boundaries for female aviation. The movies goes along until we end with the moment in history that truly makes her memorable - her disappearance while trying to circumnavigate the world by plane together with navigator Fred Noonan (Christopher Eccleston).

The movie definitely had its strong points in terms of treatment - it nicely mixed historical footage (or segments made to look like it) with the full color moments that depicted the "present" day in terms of the story. This allowed the viewer to follow the story from different perspectives - how history documented things officially along with the more speculative moments based on personal accounts and educated interpolation.

Hillary Swank was pretty good as Amelia, although this felt too much like her once again playing a very masculine female role. Seriously, doesn't she have the acting range to play anything softer? Is she always going to get stuck in this rut of playing the tough tom boy type of character who has to go against the grain of the masculine world? This was stressed even more by how weak the other male roles were presented. Even Ewan McGregor's introduction as the potentially charming Gene Vidal left him as just another guy with whom Amelia had relations with.

I think that's what really got me though - the overall lack of a central theme or a consistent tone. It struggled with being a dramatic documentary on one end as they tried to present the hard facts while it was also trying to be this female-oriented romance showing how her life with Putnam developed and how Vidal may have given her a totally different track. It kept jumping between the two perspective, thus leaving the viewers with a general sense of confusion over which part was truly more important (or perhaps just more predominant).

Don't get me wrong, overall it was a decent movie and one that I don't regret seeing (although yes, I did get to watch it for free at a premiere). At the same time, it's just not gripping enough to make me want to go out and tell all my friends that they have to go see it or something. It felt like the kind of decent dramatic work that one normally sees on cable TV, like as if it was scheduled to appear on the Hallmark Channel next week.

Okay, that last line may come out more insulting that expected. You have to acknowledge that I'm the kind of person who (occasionally) likes (or appreciates) Hallmark movies. Honest.

Amelia remains a decent attempt at a dramatic documentary but not one that is guaranteed to bag the studio any awards. It gets 3.5 discharged batteries out of a possible 5.

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1 comment:

geek said...

Yeah, good review on Amelia. I just watched it this afternoon. The thing with Amelia is the film itself didn't stand out when it should have. I mean, Amelia Earhart has a spot in song lyrics, goddamit!

You're right. It's not that bad. But there are better movies.

I guess it was a good technique to release it along with New Moon -- well, bad, depends on which perspective you take. At least people who hate New Moon have something better to watch.

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