The time period “area case” might as properly have been invented for Lucy Cola, a fictional astronaut loosely impressed by Lisa Nowak, who famously (if not solely factually) donned grownup diapers and powered her means cross-country to confront a romantic rival on the Orlando airport, the place she was arrested for tried kidnapping and battery. When the story broke — this was a dozen years again, in 2007 — information retailers and tabloids alike handled it as a sort of pathetic “Deadly Attraction” state of affairs, by which a jealous NASA engineer couldn’t deal with being dumped by considered one of her colleagues and went berserk.
Now, Natalie Portman affords an alternate interpretation. In its oddly understanding and stylistically bold means, “Lucy within the Sky” means that possibly outer area was accountable for Nowak’s actions. You see, as an astronaut, Nowak belonged to a really small membership of super-achievers who’ve truly touched the heavens, trying down on our tiny blue planet. As a girl, she needed to work tougher than her male colleagues to earn a spot on the Discovery shuttle.
Little question an expertise like that adjustments somebody, which is the liftoff level for this distractingly over-directed big-screen debut from TV helmer Noah Hawley (“Legion,” “Fargo”) — a gifted visible storyteller who triple-knots his personal shoelaces right here, stumbling over cumbersome metaphors (butterflies, floating) and high-concept options to simple dramatic issues when he ought to have simply entrusted his main girl to hold the narrative. For instance, within the opening scene, Hawley contrasts the fantastic full-screen splendor of Earth seen from above with a boxed-in almost sq. body again on terra firma — a nifty concept, however one which imposes a sort of formal subjectivity upon the film, inadvertently competing with Portman’s efficiency. (Later, Hawley and DP Polly Morgan alternate between facet ratios so usually that it begins to really feel like somebody has grabbed each of your ears and is taking part in your head like an enormous accordion.)
In any case, the script (which Brian C. Brown and Elliott DiGuiseppi wrote, and Hawley retooled) floats its armchair evaluation of Nowak early, when a post-touchdown therapist performed by Nick Offerman (bearded and wheelchair-bound, like some sort of eccentric comedian guide character) quotes Michael Collins, who accompanied Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin on the Apollo 11 mission, orbiting the moon whereas the opposite two made their well-known stroll: “I’m now actually alone and completely alone from any recognized life. I’m it.”
Certainly area will need to have had a profound impression on Nowak — whom we’ll seek advice from Lucy going ahead, for the reason that movie strays fairly removed from the reality in its exploration of her psychology. Why Lucy? As a result of Elton John’s “Rocket Man” and David Bowie’s “Area Oddity” are each songs about space-males, and the filmmakers wished an appropriate pop tune to play over the film’s trippiest sequence — not counting the vaguely “Gravity”-like opening, when Portman’s kaleidoscope-eyed Lucy sees her life from above and suffers a sort of existential disaster.
From area, Lucy watches the whole lot that when felt so essential — her husband Drew (Dan Stevens), daughter Blue Iris (Pearl Amanda Dickson) and supportive, chain-smoking granny (Ellen Burstyn) — flash by like a montage (truly, it is a montage). Later, confiding in flirtatious fellow astronaut Mark Goodwin (Jon Hamm), Lucy explains in her thick Texas drawl, “You go up there, you see the entire universe, and the whole lot down right here appears so small.”
It’s the sort of statement the movie treats as if “you needed to be there” — like blasting previous the environment is the one solution to lose perspective on one’s terrestrial considerations. Besides that there are a thousand ways in which occurs to individuals day by day: a near-death expertise, falling in love, being handled as a star. When it’s used to justify an extramarital affair, it’s known as rationalization, and whereas I’m not right here to guage Lucy for it, the film appears to be going to extraordinary lengths to recommend that her garden-variety jealousy was someway particular, when in reality, it was her response that made her case distinctive.
“Lucy within the Sky” is not, by any stretch of the creativeness, the equal of Amazon Studios’ “Lorena,” which takes the feminist (though “humanist” can be an equally apt phrase) method to a well-known tabloid case by approaching Lorena Bobbitt as a sufferer, and investigating what led her to lop off husband John Wayne’s offending organ. Hawley’s movie needs to have it each methods, taking part in it delicate one second and sensationalistic the subsequent. However it does take the step of confronting the systemic flaw — office sexism — that performed into Lucy’s actions. She might have been having an off-limits affair with a colleague (unlawful, truly, in line with army guidelines, since she was married), however she wasn’t doing it alone. Portman radiates confidence within the function, masking her character’s well-hidden vulnerability. And whereas Hamm could also be good-looking, he’s taking part in a superior officer who abuses his energy after jettisoning Lucy for one more colleague (Zazie Beetz).
With out giving an excessive amount of away, Lucy discovers proof that Mark sought to floor her after they broke up. That element suggests her nearly-1,000-mile drive — with no diaper, as an alternative dragging her grown daughter alongside for the experience — wasn’t about terrorizing her competitors, or confronting her ex, however attempting to speak her means again onto the upcoming Orion mission. For Lucy, “the sky” had grow to be a sort of drug. As soon as she’d gone up, she was determined to realize that prime once more, which is one thing so few ladies are permitted to expertise. In that respect, the film feels fairly well timed, illustrating the unimaginable expectations placed on ladies to be taken severe in historically male-dominated fields.
Practically half a century after “Hidden Figures,” the alternatives for girls at NASA have advanced from thankless human calculators to astronauts themselves — a battle extra instantly dramatized in a French movie, Alice Winocur’s “Proxima,” which additionally premiered on the Toronto Movie Pageant. Sadly, each hard-fought step of progress might be immediately reversed by a hoary sexist stereotype, as when Lucy’s boss tells her, “You simply let your self get too emotional.”
Till now, Hawley has managed to maintain this showy melodrama comparatively relatable. As soon as accused of being hysterical, nonetheless, Lucy proceeds to lose it altogether, and all of a sudden the film spirals off into Brian De Palma territory: Lucy goes to the grocery retailer and buys a wig (to put on over her already unconvincing pageboy bob), a mallet, a knife and the whole lot else within the Piggly Wiggly’s “kidnapping provides” aisle. The movie’s outrageous final act appears to have been beamed in from one other dimension, which is unusual, because it’s the phase that the majority instantly hails from actual life. At this level, “Lucy within the Sky” will both lose audiences or win them over, suggesting that she someway misplaced her thoughts (or part of it) in area. For some motive, Hawley goes huge and campy when the concept was to dam out all that cosmic noise and give attention to what was taking place contained in the character’s head.