Last week I got my last second invite to see Amelia this Thursday, one day before it hits theaters. Considering it’s a film many are looking at as an easy choice for Oscar with Hilary Swank in the lead role as aviation pioneer Amelia Earhart, the fact Fox Searchlight has only held a couple of screenings to this point and is showing it to critics so late in the game typically doesn’t bode well. However, there are a few in the tank for the film sight-unseen and the first reviews arrived just today.
In the worst example of an industry journalist taking the studio bait and chewing on every word they feed him, Pete Hammond’s profile on the film at the Los Angeles Times makes it almost impossible to take anything said in the article seriously. After making excuses of final touches he quotes a “studio source” as saying, “I didn’t like it, I LOVED it.” This is before he delivers the following paragraph which includes the word “fact” even though Hammond admits earlier he has not seen the film when addressing added flashback scenes “that apparently make a big difference for many who saw the earlier cuts.”
The fact is “Amelia” is a beautifully crafted and very traditional epic drama that’s aimed at an older, more discerning audience. That’s the kind of crowd that’s slow to show up at the multiplex, but if they do, they will be treated to the kind of fine adult biographical story movie studios generally just don’t seem to be making anymore.
David Carr at the New York Times wrote a profile piece on the film discussing more the historical timeline of the film’s subject while the first reviews came rolling in from Variety and The Hollywood Reporter.
Ray Bennett at THR opens his rave for the film saying:
Freckle-faced, prairie-voiced and fiercely independent, Hilary Swank’s depiction of aviator Amelia Earhart in Mira Nair’s biographical film “Amelia” is of a high order. It ranks with recent real-life portrayals of Ray Charles by Jamie Foxx and Truman Capote by Philip Seymour Hoffman and could be similarly awards-bound.
However, these words aren’t mirrored by Variety’s Justin Chang whose review may prove this is a film that will be polarizing the critical base as his lead-in paragraph eviscerates the film:
To say that “Amelia” never gets off the ground would be an understatement; it barely makes it out of the hangar. Handsomely mounted yet dismayingly superficial, Mira Nair’s film offers snazzy aerial photography and inspirational platitudes in lieu of insight into Amelia Earhart’s storied life and high-flying career. Prestigious packaging, led by Hilary Swank’s gussied-up performance as the iconic aviatrix, portends friendly commercial skies for the Fox Searchlight release, at least initially. But critical disdain is unlikely to be countered by much audience enthusiasm, even among admirers of this kind of old-fashioned, star-powered bio-mush.
Along with Swank, it’s long been thought a potential supporting nod could come from the film for either Richard Gere as George Putnam or Ewan McGregor as Gene Vidal as well as a directorial nod for Nair, adapted screenplay (it’s based on two books about Earhart — Susan Butler’s “East to the Dawn” and Elgin Long’s “Amelia Earhart: The Mystery Solved”) and even Best Picture. Hammond alludes to Gabriel Yared’s score calling it “superb” and I expect this film to look beautiful as is always the case with Nair’s films regardless of quality, which may lead to a nom for cinematographer Stuart Dryburgh. However, the delay, prior to its slow roll into approximately 800 theaters this weekend may not do the film any favors.
Swank was recently awarded the “Actress Award” for her role from the Hollywood Film Festival, a ceremony that will take place October 26 in Beverly Hills and if you want even more, Hilary Swank discusses the film and her character with The Wall Street Journal.