AmeliaThe new biopic on the life and times of aviation pioneer Amelia Earhart doesn’t crash and burn. But it doesn’t soar either. It just sort of taxis on the runway, gets some occasional lift, and glides back down again. Not the most exciting ride. And that’s disappointing, especially when you consider her remarkable story.

Earhart was an accomplished pilot and writer. She was an avid risk-taker. She was a role model. She broke records. She scored endorsement deals. She was a champion for other women fliers. She had a zest for life. And in 1937, she vanished in the South Pacific, along with her navigator Fred Noonan. Exactly how and why, we’ll probably never know.

Amelia is a somewhat by-the-numbers romantic drama that culminates with Earhart’s disappearance during the final leg of an unprecedented attempt to fly around the globe.

with GereOn the plus side, the performances are solid. Two-time Academy Award winner Hilary Swank (Million Dollar Baby, Boys Don’t Cry) captures the look and spirit of Earhart as she’s appeared in all those grainy black and white films and photos from the 1920s and ‘30s. And Richard Gere is charming as ever in his role as Earhart’s publicist/promoter and then husband, George Putnam, who forgives his wife’s transgressions with pilot Gene Vidal (Ewan McGregor), father of Gore (Who knew?).

There is a certain amount of built-in tension and drama that comes from knowing how a story ends while you’re watching it unfold. What Amelia lacks, however, is the depth of character and relationships and backstory that helped elevate biopics like Walk the Line, Ray, or even Cinderella Man (a Depression-era boxing saga that I happened to enjoy despite its lukewarm reviews).

The screenplay for Amelia is based on two biographies of Earhart, so it’s sad that there isn’t more ‘there’ there. Director Mira Nair (Monsoon Wedding, Vanity Fair) delivers an okay movie that’s suitable for a matinee. And while it’s good to see a chick directing a movie about a strong, independent chick, I couldn’t in good conscience suggest paying full price. Amelia would be a decent airplane movie though, if you can get past the crashes and stuff, cause one thing this movie does achieve with great success… It reminds you of the absolute miracle of flight and just how far aviation has come since Amelia Earhart first took to the skies – without the benefit of modern-day radar and that little device known as “auto pilot”.

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