Who better to play a strong, accomplished woman on screen than two-time Academy Award winner Hilary Swank? And Swank is Amelia Earhart in this film, just as she was Brandon Teena in Boys Don’t Cry and Maggie Fitzgerald in Million Dollar Baby. Swank’s ability to transform into whatever role she’s playing rivals water’s ability to transform into ice.
Amelia follows the adventurous life of accomplished pilot Amelia Earhart not only through the challenges of her perilous flights, but through some of the difficulties in her personal life as well. Exclaiming lines like, “Who wants a life imprisoned in safety?” Swank’s performance as the affable Earhart was both convincing and inspiring. Richard Gere plays Earhart’s husband George Putnam, and her lover and friend Gene Vidal, is played by Ewan McGregor, but Christopher Eccleston’s dynamic portrayal of navigator Fred Noonan was a real standout in this biopic.
Although the plot progressed slowly at times, the visual elements helped keep the movie fresh. In addition to the aerial cinematography was Earhart’s incredible wardrobe: From bomber jackets to aviator hats, dresses, ties, scarves and necklaces, Costume Designer Kasia Walicka Maimone pulled out all the stops to have Swank resemble the fashion-forward woman Earhart was.
Fashionable and forward were two traits of Earhart’s that were transmitted from the start, but what about warm? Just when I started to think the movie was shying away too much from letting Earhart have an emotional side, staying too opposite the end of femininity on the spectrum, the most heart-warming moment in the movie proved me wrong and it was nice seeing the icon depicted as having a soft side.
The film also proved educational. Most are familiar with the story of Amelia Earhart, but perhaps not this intimate with the details of her experience.
Director Mira Nair constructed a film that provides a strong representation of women. Seeing women play role after role as the hero’s girlfriend or wife can become tiresome. It’s nice to see a great adventure of a movie with a female hero, and a true-to-life one at that.