Saturday, November 28, 2009

Review: Amelia


Amelia is a godawful mess: acted by a poorly funded high school theater group, written by a collection of infinite monkeys at typewriters, and created without drive or passion. Mira Nair's biopic of the famous Aviatrix lacks almost any redeeming quality. If pressed to compliment the film, I concede that the costume design is gorgeous and inventive, and the cinematography by Stuart Dryburgh is sometimes (albeit rarely) inspired. Alas, here be the end of my positive notes.
I have trouble comprehending how so many actors who can be talented in the right hands strayed so far from the path of artistic quality at the same time. Hilary Swank is nigh-interminable as the titular heroine: she seems to be playing at accents, but only succeeds in sounding like a poor SNL sketch. Swank, however, looks positively godlike compared to the profoundly retarded machinations of Richard Gere. Enlightened viewers who have seen Singin' in the Rain will understand what I mean when I say that Richard Gere sounds like Don Lockwood attempting to act in his first film with sound. For unenlightened viewers, let me translate: the actors at the Renaissance Fair are Oscar-worthy compared to Richard Gere. Seriously, who let this man out of his box? Gere should be euthanized with all possible speed, so as to prevent him from ever profaning the screen with his inanity again. Only Christopher Eccleston, who plays Earhart's alcoholic co-pilot, manages to keep his dignity. Sure, he struggles with the accent from time to time, but I'm comfortable blaming that on the director, as well as his lack of a dialect coach.
The actors are just the beginning of the problems in this mess. The script is unbelievably trite and ham-fisted, and Nair's direction is uneven and uninspired. The worst sin of the film, however, is the treatment of it subject matter. The film is so desperate to love and whitewash its subject that it avoids all psychological and emotional complexity. Amelia is a constant parade of people paying obsequious lip service to Earhart. As a viewer who felt neither one way or another about Earhart, I confess that this movie left me knowing nothing more about Amelia than when I entered the theater, nor did it inspire in me any desire to know more. This is the worst possible sin of a biopic. Not only was it a bad film, but it made me wish ill will toward its subject. Thank God Amelia Earhart died in the Pacific: it's a fate far kinder than having to live to see your accomplishments bastardized by this shoddy piece of cinema.


  1. I love how you rated G.I. Joe, the movie with underwater flames and sinking ice, above this. Though they definitely have something in common - Christopher Eccleston's bad accent. Poor guy can't seem to escape that northern English clip, can he? I'm glad he held his own, though. I like him quite a lot, and he seems like he'd play a damn good alcoholic. Not that I'll ever see him play one, at least not in this movie. Anything worse than G.I. Joe doesn't deserve to be watched.

  2. See, G.I. Joe gets a higher rating because its intention was to be a big, dumb action movie, and it succeeded to some degree. I can't give it anything higher than it has, because it didn't even succeed completely on its own terms, and its intentions aren't good enough to warrant more consideration, but it's still head and shoulders over Amelia. Amelia royally screwed up everything it tried to do, and didn't even do it in an entertaining or interesting way. In other words, at least G.I. Joe was bad in a fun way, while Amelia wasn't.

  3. I'm curious -- are you sure that Eccleston didn't have a dialect coach? I work with accents professionally myself (though I don't actually coach actors), and so I could hear that Eccleston was making a serious effort and doing many things right -- and yet I wondered, "Why didn't his coach help him with this, and this, and this...?" If he didn't have one, it would explain a lot.

  4. I can't claim any definitive knowledge, but neither the film's closing credits, nor its IMDB page, list a dialogue coach for Mr. Eccleston, whereas the other primary actors (Swank and McGregor) had personal coaches listed. I suppose this decide the issue, but I inferred that poor Chris Eccleston was left to struggle on his own.