Diane Keaton looks great in a short action-haircut in Amelia Earhart: The Final Flight, and her acting is admirably unmannered, but this made-for-TV biopic lets her down. Writer Anna Sandor (the Emmy-winning Hallmark Hall of Fame production Miss Rose White) has turned the story of the pioneering aviator into a trite feminist tract with a peculiar anti-media subtext. Rutger Hauer (Surviving the Game) hovers over Keaton as navigator Fred Noonan, whose character as it is portrayed doesn’t really add up; he’s depicted as a moody, untrustworthy souse who is nonetheless a brilliant-in-a-pinch flier.
Whenever she’s not up in the air, Earhart spends a lot of time avoiding slathering packs of reporters. The script turns her into a self-pitying whiner, given to saying things to her husband (Bruce Dern as publisher G.P. Putnam) such as, “I’m not this Amelia Earhart person — she’s just an invention. She’s been invented by you, by me, by the press, by” — big, wracked sob — “all those women out there looking for a heroine.” One of the few good things PBS offered this past season was a lively, hard-nosed American Experience documentary about Earhart; from that, it’s easy to see why Keaton wanted to play this woman. From The Final Flight, it’s hard to see why she agreed to do this version.