How Does it Feel to be Home?
In 2007, headlines were dominated by an interesting love triangle involving multiple NASA astronauts. “Lucy in the Sky” recounts the events that transpired in a brand new story, beginning as internally-motivated Lucy (Natalie Portman) arrives back on Earth following her trip to space. Suffering and attempting to find her footing back on the ground, she finds herself lost and searching for something; longing to return to space where things seemed much simpler. During her struggles, she sparks an affair with a fellow astronaut named Mark (Jon Hamm), feeling seemingly-indifferent to the hurt she may cause her husband (Dan Stevens). As Lucy begins to spiral out-of-control, she is left searching for her true self; falling for Mark and distancing herself from her husband. As she learns the feeling may not be mutual and Mark entangles with another astronaut (Zazie Beetz), Lucy can only think of one solution.
It’s always refreshing to see Natalie Portman on the screen and she finds herself back in space this time around. Her performance is crucial to the film, as she commands the screen as we watch her descend into nothing. The surrounding cast features Hamm, Beetz, Stevens (in one of the most bizarre and poorly-casted roles of his career), Pearl Amanda Dickson, Ellen Burstyn, Tig Notaro, and Jeffrey Donovan; given this group I thoroughly expected more from them but the script held them back immensely. While focusing around NASA, “Lucy in the Sky” is hardly a space movie, which isn’t a bad characteristic. Rather than focus on the mission and the dealings in space, the film follows an astronaut’s life after they come back; their mental state, their family life, and their adjustment. The film starts out promising, but quickly deteriorates as it becomes a run-of-the-mill after school special.
Distinctly different from the real-life story, “Lucy in the Sky” takes many artistic liberties to build its story; including that of female harassment. Lucy suffers multiple instances of belittling and her tragic downfall is ultimately sparked by a man taking advantage of her mental state, but instead of subtlety proving a point the director chooses to bash you in the face with this plot point. One can’t help but wonder how much better this film would have been if it was told by a woman (which is shocking as even Reese Witherspoon is listed as an executive producer). Meanwhile, as what I can only imagine is a link to her fragile mentality, the film’s editing features distracted filmmaking techniques with multiple image-breaks and whispering dialogue that only serve to irritate the viewer. The film also could have largely benefited from having 30 minutes or so cut from its 124 minute running time, as it would have led to a cleaner, less jumbled mess. Unfortunately after his promising television catalog so far, Noah Hawley’s feature film debut leaves much to be desired.
Portman firmly gives it her all, but even that can’t save “Lucy in the Sky” from becoming one of the year’s most forgettable films.
LUCY IN THE SKY is rated R for language and some sexual content, in theaters OCTOBER 11TH!