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'Amelia,' Hilary Swank: Finding a movie role to fit the face

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Hilary Swank plays the legendary aviator Amelia Earhart in Amelia. And although, as I said in my review, the movie is earthbound, the choice of Swank in the title role demonstrates sky-clear thinking. (Okay, that’s enough of the windblown aeronautical metaphors.) Physically, the two are twins, and not just because Swank has been coiffed in Earhart’s striking, trademark, short-haired tousle, a variation on Winnie the Pooh‘s Christopher Robin. Rather, both women project a seductive androgyny–a boyishness that nevertheless leaves no doubt about the sexuality of the woman wearing the trousers.

True, Swank first found fame as a girl living as a boy in Boys Don’t Cry. But even when she unbound her breasts in subsequent roles, the strong set of her jaw and, more fundamentally, her brisk, un-girly manner has made her a casting director’s challenge. The very Swank-ness of Swank continues to pose a fascinating personal artistic challenge as she charts her best career course: Million Dollar Baby? A home run. The saccharine romance P.S., I Love You? A big dud. Freedom Writers? The right idea, but the wrong project.

Truth is, I really like actors who are tough nuts to crack, tough faces and bodies to glamorize, and tough personalities to cast; I like the way they tend to outrun the best intentions of stylists who glam them up on the covers of fashion magazines. So  I really like Swank, and the tough, toothy, I-will-survive ferocity that radiates off her, even when she’s dolled up. I don’t know why a subject as exciting as Amelia Earhart ended up stranded in a movie as dull as Amelia, but I’m rooting for the star in her next voyage.

Now comes the question I airmail to you: What actor, male or female, do you root for because he or she is just so…different?

Photo credits, (l. to r.): Ken Woroner, Merle W. Wallace, Jonathan Hession

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