'Amelia' - DVD Review

eccleston in amelia
Region 1, 20th Century Fox.
Written by Ronald Bass & Anna Hamilton Phelan; Susan Butler (book "East to the Dawn"), Mary Lovell (book "The Sound of Wings"), directed by Mira Nair.
With H. Swank, R. Gere, E. McGregor, C. Eccleston.

The 'Amelia' DVD arrived in Region 1 this week. I purchased the standard wide screen version (for differences with BluRay and European release see this post).

First, the packaging on my DVD is sloppy. The picture on the front is from the European posters - a sepia airbrushed picture of Swank and Gere touching noses, meant apparently to demonstrate their passion, not exactly my fave pose, but whatever. The back has smaller pictures of Gere and Swank by the Electra, on the beach, and a picture of Ewan McGregor. No Eccleston, but here is the thing, the cover is glued on the box crooked. Sloppy. Otherwise standard box and DVD, no insert.

Standard features in terms of language and look. There is NO commentary feature.

The "Extras" consist of: Deleted Scenes, two "Making of" type features, Movietone news reels from the era and the trailers.

The deleted scenes are good, while there are a couple of duplications of the ones that did appear in the movie, and a couple are "voiced over" as if meant to be bridging scenes, those that interested me were the Virginia Madsen scenes. There are at least three of her portrayal of Putnam's wife, and they are increasingly interesting as they illustrate a bit more how Amelia and Putnam became involved, and some undercurrents of emotion.
The scenes progress from Mrs. Putnam being a supportive wife and friend to Amelia, to declaring she is leaving George for another lover, to her final scene as a drunk and vulnerable woman whose "farewell" party was overshadowed by Amelia's presence. There is also a scene between McGregor and Gere - Vidal and Putnam talking while Amelia is upstairs with Gore, and again, the undercurrents here would have added some nice drama if it had been used.

There are also a couple more scenes, one with Amelia's fiancé where he tells her if she flies again, he will take that as a sign they aren't to be as a couple. I was left wondering if they had mentioned the fiancé in other cut scenes, or even if there are more scenes out there, and the ones on the DVD are only the finished ones that may have been in early cuts of the movie. Otherwise the scene, which is good, comes out of the blue. There is also a scene depicting Mabel Boll, one of Amelia's rivals, kind of glam scene with paparazzi where Boll wisecracks about Amelia. I am not sure about the purpose of the scene - meant to show she had rivals, or class distinction? But Boll is played by Mariska Hargitay, who is a popular and award winning television actress in America - should have kept the scene just to get her fans to the show!

Christopher Eccleston appears in the deleted scenes, "going cameling", where he declines to accompany Amelia on a camel ride and later looks over the desert sunset with her and has some dialogue. The scene is beautiful, and CE's accent is spot on, but did not really add to the story, except to make me wish, as always, that the focus of the film had been the journey around the world - they came darned close to making it! It was an accomplishment and an exotic journey that gets lost in the fact of the disappearance.

There are two "Making of" features. The second, "The Power of Amelia", starts out with comments from Nair and Swank, as well as producer Lydia Dean Pilcher talking about how impressive and ground breaking Amelia was, and how they hope this film will give her wider exposure etc., and then somehow segues into praise for the costume and set designers, and then after a long interval of that back to Amelia. Don't get me wrong, the set and costume designers kicked ass on this film and deserve their due, it was just a weirdly organized featurette. Everyone was very positive and upbeat - excited about the project, which makes its lack of success more painful to think about really. For some this movie was a labor of love.

The "Making of Amelia" feature is probably the best treat for Eccleston fans. Nair, Swank, Gere, McGregor, Eccleston, Pilcher are interviewed about the film, Amelia, other characters, the actors, the Electra and South Africa. Nair looks as if she did her interviews in an apartment or office, Swank is interviewed against a backdrop, some months later if her hair is any indication (perhaps not to break the illusion of the character), Gere and Eccleston are filmed on the "New Guinea" set in South Africa. I believe we saw several of the snippets of the Eccleston interview around the time of the film's US release.

First, the movie and project is discussed (although not its interesting history from indie to big studio film etc.), then everyone gushes over HS, her talents and ability to live in the character, including Eccleston, who calls her a gift to the production. He also praises her attention to detail and focus, her generosity with a fellow actor. Then there is discussion of Gere, primarily his charisma, Nair thinks people come to the movie looking for that - she likes beauty, and HS and RG make a "beautiful couple".

There is a brief discussion of Gene Vidal - but not McGregor (which is interesting given that supposedly they really worked hard and adjusted production schedule because they were so adamant to have him in the film). Then the discussion turns to Eccleston - he discusses Fred Noonan at some length, then Nair and Swank begin to gush over him. Nair talks about his natural ease, lack of ego, earthiness etc. He measured up with HS with ease and comfort. Swank goes on to say that he took a complicated person and showed his imperfections and wonderfulness. Eccleston closes by discussing how much he enjoys working on set run by women: that he gets to be vulnerable and creative.

The trailers are the ones we have seen, the Movietone news reels are short, but fascinating.

All in all worth having this DVD if you are an Eccleston fan, because I believe it's an excellent performance - extras are fairly basic if that sort of thing is important to you!


Main Amelia post


Snow Bear said...

Thanks a lot for this review :) I really loved Amelia and Chris's performance was the one of the highlights for me so I'll definitely be buying the DVD when it's released in the UK.

This review is helpful to me because although DVD extras don't matter that much to me, sometimes it is good to have an insight into how that particular film is made so I'm glad to see that there's a featurette or two about this. And pleased that the Eccleston interview has been included :)

chiclit said...

Thank you for the nice comments, Snowbear. Think you will really enjoy the making of featurette. You really do get to see the passion the team had for the project and the devotion to it.