When Amelia Earhart gazed upon a plane taking off into the heavens as a young girl in Kansas, she decided right then and there that there could be no other place for her. We know this because Earhart (Hilary Swank in full blunt and clip mode from her hair to her perfectly brittle accent) tells us in voice-over narration that sounds like it was culled straight from a text (or two in this case, since the screenplay is based on two books — Susan Butler’s East to Dawn and Mary S. Lovell’s The Sound of Wings). The clearly enunciated thoughts lack the natural flow of conversation or the deep stirrings of sense memories.
That flaw points to the hand of screenwriter Ron Bass, a well-known pen for hire with broad sensibilities but a surprising lack of depth.
Earhart (and the host of female fliers who joined her campaign to take to the skies) dreamed of breaking free of the shackles of gender inequality, but Bass and co-scenarist Anna Hamilton Phelan give us only brief glimpses into the psyches of Earhart or those other women. And we need more because most of us don’t have any experience with Earhart as an icon; she is a historical figure that, shockingly, not as many people seem to know about.
I listened to a number of viewers exiting the screening I attended expressing their own lack of knowledge of her story. She is not Ray or Ali, someone we can fill in the gaps left by the script. We need context and more of her in her story in order for it to become ours again. Grade: C-