'Lucy in the Sky' Film Review

For those of you want to play smart with me, no...'Lucy in the Sky' is not a sequel to 'Yesterday' where Natalie Portman wakes up and is the only person who remembers the Beatles. That would sound ridiculous, right?

Jokes aside, I'll be honest that I wasn't that excited for this movie. Don't get me wrong, the cast looked fantastic and I thought the first trailer looked intriguing, but the fact that the film was inspired by, but also distancing itself as much as possible from, the true events of astronaut Lisa Nowak left a bit of hesitancy going into this. On top of that, I haven't been the biggest Noah Hawley fan over the years. Granted, I haven't seen his 'Fargo' series yet, but his work on 'Legion' has been so hit-and-miss over the years that I just didn't know what kind of approach he could take to this.

But putting that all aside, what do we get with 'Lucy in the Sky?' Well to my disappointment, Noah Hawley has made a movie based on fascinating events worth exploring that wind up utterly boring and over directed. For as talented as that aforementioned cast are, 'Lucy in the Sky' relies way too much on showing us our titular protagonists "mind-blown" state without giving us the proper context to view her as properly fleshed out, and in a sense of misdirected blame that feels like a drag to get through.

Lucy Cola (played by Natalie Portman) is an astronaut who just came back from a mission at the International Space Station. Her husband, Drew (played by Dan Stevens) is excited to see her again, as is Lucy's nephew Iris (played by Pearl Amanda Dickson), who was left with the couple by Lucy's absentee brother. Lucy's mission in space has left her with a newfound appreciation for space life, and so she begins to dedicate her mind and body to going on the next flight up. She meets Mark Goodwin (played by John Hamm), an astronaut who is also aiming for a return trip and quickly forms a friendship with him through their shared experience.

The situation begins to escalate as Lucy's new priorities seem to affect her returned life on Earth. She begins an affair with Mark, and begins to suspect he may be having a second affair with rookie astronaut Erin Eccles (played by Zazie Beatz). As she becomes more detached from reality and her own family, Lucy begins a downward spiral that threatens to cease any chances of her returning to space.

For the messy result we get in 'Lucy in the Sky,' I don't necessarily think that Natalie Portman is to blame. She still makes some rather odd decisions as a performer, but they're also balanced by some very interesting notions as well. She has to carry a lot of the overtly-transcendence pacing on her characters shoulders. It's nowhere near a Jackie or Black Swan performance, but I admired the effort to get us as an audience to believe in Lucy's journey.

I think the bigger issue is that almost no one gets out of this movie with a great performance. Jon Hamm is playing in the sort of charmingly, sleazy vain he's done before, albeit this time around with a character who is written as spending his free time watching the Challenger disaster on repeat - lovely. Dan Stevens, for the range he gets utilize on Hawley's Legion, is reduced to a caricature of naive husband tropes. Zazie Beatz is once again reduced to a pale imitation for a love interest, and between this and Joker, I'm wondering if any directors have actually seen what she can do as a performer, because this is starting to get aggravating.

The one saving grace I found was Lucy's mother, Nana (played by Ellen Burstyn), who I swear is my favorite thing about this movie. It's not a comedy, nor should it be, but Burstyn imbues a sense of nonchalant dry humor that, I think if I counted, had me laughing almost every time she opened her mouth. Yeah, a drama about mental health and the scale of the universe, and my favorite part was the joking grandmother, what does that tell you?

'Lucy in the Sky' suffers greatest from Noah Hawley himself, who hat makes it so infuriating is that Hawley will put Lucy in positions to be able to actually help her work through her spirals, whether with family, friends, or an actual NASA therapist (played by Nick Offerman), but instead of allowing Lucy to deflect those on her own, Noah Hawley seems more interested in giving us an abundance of aspect ratio variations (because her mind is constantly in flux) and and overhead shots (because she still feels like she belongs in space, GET IT!?!)

It's overly concerned with showing us everything except for what our main character is actually going through on Earth. It feels as stuck in the stars as Lucy is, which is fine from a visual perspective, but when you get down to utilizing those visual cues, there's no baseline for us to get attached to. Hawley doesn't care who Lucy was before she went into space, he only cares that she's slipping, and it starts to feel more like an exposé than it does an exploration.

I think I'd be angrier at 'Lucy in the Sky' if I wasn't so bored by it. It's not the worst movie I've seen this year, but it does rank up one of the messier ones I've seen, with a promising director turning to arthouse nonsense to convince us to care for a character we should be inherently caring for.

I don't even think I can recommend this to Noah Hawley fans, as his work on Legion, for all of its shortcomings, at least feels distinct and a fine fit for his preferences. Go read Lisa Nowak's actual story, that's a fascinating read if you want these ideas explored a bit more. This is just a film that tries to give a portrayal into fascinating events, while never giving the human beings within those events the proper development for a story like this.

Overall, I give "Lucy in the Sky" 4/10

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