A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this biopic about iconic female pilot Amelia Earhart (played by Oscar winner Hilary Swank) has a strong female role model for preteen girls and older. Although the film addresses Earhart's tumultuous personal life (including issues related to fidelity and fame), it also offers empowering messages -- throughout the film, Earhart is portrayed as a true champion of a woman's right to take flight and “be free.” Expect some kissing and underwear-clad cuddling, an affair, a fair bit of smoking (accurate to the era), some social drinking, and a little salty language ("ass," "hell," and the like).
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
July 2, 1937: Pilot Amelia Earhart (Hilary Swank) and her navigator, Fred Noonan (Christopher Eccleston), make their way home after circling the world. But instead of refueling on Howland Island, a speck of land in the middle of the vast Pacific Ocean, they drop radio contact and are never seen again. AMELIA chronicles this fateful journey and the years leading up to it, starting with the moment that Earhart meets publisher George Putnam (Richard Gere), who helps create the hype over "Lady Lindy" and whom Earhart later marries. Though they adore each other, Earhart’s attentions are lured elsewhere -- by fellow pilot Gene Vidal (Ewan McGregor) and, more intensely, by flight itself.
Is it any good?
Swank is indeed talented, but not talented enough to translate the true spirit of the great Amelia Earhart. The famous aviatrix is still intangible here, despite Swank's close physical resemblance to the famed pilot. In a way, that's what’s the matter with the film itself. Gorgeously filmed, especially when Earhart takes to the skies, Amelia nevertheless feels untethered. And it never quite takes flight. Director Mira Nair knows how to create stunning visual poetry, but that doesn’t help us get to know the icon. Was she reckless? Was she a visionary? How did she feel about her achievements?
It’s only when we see Earhart in the cockpit that we get a sense, if fleetingly, of the great joy she must have felt when she was up in the air; free, as you can imagine her saying. The script is uneven: Too much attention is paid to a young Gore Vidal (who’s not actually essential to the plot) and not enough to his father, Gene (played soundly by MacGregor), who captivated Earhart enough to lure her away from her husband. But why, we don’t know. After nearly two hours of film, there’s just too much viewers don't get to find out.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about what drives Earhart to set records. Does she have anything to prove, or is she simply a true aviator? Was she, as critics said, reckless?
What impact did Earhart have the women’s movement? Did she detract from that with all her endorsements, especially of products she didn’t actually like, such as cigarettes?
What is the movie saying about "celebrity culture"? How have things changed (or haven't they?) since Earhart's day?
- In theaters: October 23, 2009
- On DVD or streaming: February 2, 2010
- Cast: Ewan McGregor, Hilary Swank, Richard Gere
- Director: Mira Nair
- Studio: Fox Searchlight
- Genre: Drama
- Topics: Great Girl Role Models, History
- Run time: 111 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG
- MPAA explanation: some sensuality, language, thematic elements and smoking
- Last updated: March 14, 2020
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