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October 30, 2009

News India Times

filmreview

The interpretation of ‘Amelia’ For Mira Nair’s Amelia Earhart, flying was a metaphor for freedom, Sunil Adam writes

I

sumptuous film, Nair focuses on how Earhart balanced her relationships, particularly with George Putnam, her publicistturned-lover-turned husband, with her reluctance to be bound by the traditional understanding of marriage and heterosexual relationship. She even tells her new husband, “I shall not hold you to any medieval code of faithfulness to me nor shall I consider myself bound to you similarly.” And as a woman unbound, she goes on to have a brief extramarital affair with fellow aviator, Gene Vidal, played

also been a bone of contention between the director and her leading man, Richard Gere, who plays Putnam – the man who probably invented the concept of public relations. Speaking with grudging admiration at a benefit screening of “Amelia” in New York, Gere, whose enduring good looks have a distracting influence on the character he plays with earnestness, called Nair a “bulldog” with whom he had, on occasions, butted heads. He praised her strong convictions and strength of character, and said she brought to her job a lot of hard work and discipline, without which this low-budget film could not have been made. The preview was attended by

by Ewan McGregor, who is now remembered only as the father of the liberal intellectual, writer and agitator, Gore Vidal. Against this backdrop, Nair’s Earhart, played by two-time Oscar winner Hilary Swank, who is also an executive producer of the film, seems much more like Aphra Behn, the English novelist and spy, who some consider to be the first feminist nearly four centuries ago. Behn regarded marriage as an inhibitor of women’s freedom, creativity and genius. Movie critics, however, seem Gere and Nair at the benefit screening of “Amelia” at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City last week.

Mohammed Jaffer/Snaps India

disappointed that Nair, instead of concentrating on Earhart’s life of adventure as an aviator, was distracted by her relationships played out on the broader canvas of her feminist outlook. The New York Times film critic Manohla Dargis, somewhat uncharitably writes, “The emphasis on her marriage domesticates Earhart and also turns her into a bore. Instead of digging deep into the complexities of her character .... the filmmakers cram Earhart’s life – or at least its presumptive highlights – into a biographical template.” It remains to be seen if the audiences approve of Nair’s interpretation, which may have

several celebrities, including author Salman Rushdie, a friend of Nair’s, television talkshow host Regis Philbin and actress Natalie Portman, who starred in the episode Nair directed for the film “New York I Love You,” an anthology joining several love stories, which is now playing in theaters. A large number of Indian Americans also turned up for the benefit screening and the after party, the proceeds of which go to the Indo-American Arts Council and Maisha Film Lab, a nonprofit that Nair set up in Kampala, Uganda, her adopted home, to train East African screenwriters and directors.

Gere and Nair are seen here with Aroon Shivdasani, executive director of IndoAmerican Arts Council.

Author Salman Rushdie poses with model Topaz Page-Green at the benefit screening of “Amelia.”

Mohammed Jaffer/Snaps India

n her new book “When Everything Changed,” The New York Times columnist Gail Collins argues that it was in the 1960s that the place and role of women in American society changed irrevocably and for the better. The ‘60s, of course, were undoubtedly the hey days of women’s liberation, what with the eclectic and explosive mix of influences ranging from Simone de Beauvoir’s “The Second Sex,” Betty Friedan’s “The Feminine Mystique,” the civil rights and the anti-Vietnam war movement, sexual liberation and braburning. But watching Mira Nair’s biopic “Amelia,” one is reminded of how much more courageous and poignant was the first wave of feminism of the 1920s and ‘30s, when women like Amelia Earhart, the most famous female aviator in history, understood and lived out freedom in the fullest sense of the term. In Nair’s interpretation of Earhart, flying was just a metaphor for her free spirit. In this engaging and visually

Mira Nair directs Hilary Swank during the filming of “Amelia.” Below, Swank and Richard Gere in a scene in the film.


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