‘Amelia’ biopic doesn’t fly


Directed by: Mira Nair

STARRING: Hilary Swank, Richard Gere, Ewan McGregor

RUN TIME: 111 min.

It’s hard to make a movie about something everyone already knows about. That’s why television movies of the week went the way of hammer pants and dodo birds.

It is in such turgid waters that director Mira Nair (“The Namesake”) dips her toes her biopic “Amelia.”

Everyone already knows about Amelia Earhart’s mysterious fate, though obviously not the exact end result. What more can there be to know?

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But Nair succeeds in making this tale blossom. The cinematography is full of beautiful aerial shots, and fantastic framing that draws the eye toward subtle details for dramatic effect, like a ring on a finger splayed over a naked back. She also includes real footage of Earhart as a final touch. The movie is visually stunning and understated in the most cunning of ways.

Even the screenwriting breaks into fascinating new territory as it explores the untraditional personal life of the woman who would not be tamed by conventions. The story on Earhart’s (Hilary Swank, “Million Dollar Baby”) love life provides intriguing details previously unknown, as does her personal writing included in narrated excerpts throughout the movie. Thanks to the script, which is based on two different biographies, the story appeals to viewers’ fact-hungry minds.

But even this absorbing soap opera cannot lift the story itself out of mediocrity.

Swank was the perfect actress to cast in the lead (no one else was better suited to the role) and she does a great job becoming Earhart, but it isn’t enough. There are no new dimensions to Earhart that are revealed in Swank’s performance, let alone in the script. Earhart was a brave pioneer and an inspiring dreamer, but most viewers knew that going in.

But there is one thing that will remain in the viewer’s mind long after the film is over: the score. The soaring music is graceful and haunting, the perfect fit for the subject matter. Lebanese composer Gabriel Yared will most likely get another Oscar nod for his work here, and deservedly so.

Nair’s work has earned her great respect as a director, and this “Amelia|” is a testament to that. It is like a delicate scent caught briefly on the breeze that taunts and teases the viewer to pay attention and remember. Unfortunately, it is too subtle, and quickly lost in the wind.