There’s nothing worse than a high concept idea…that you just can’t make work.
While the idea behind Lucy In The Sky is an incredibly strong one that you can’t help but get totally invested in, the execution behind it all on this film was some of the sloppiest filmmaking we’ve seen in years as it all barely made sense.
Lucy Cola (Natalie Portman) is a strong woman whose determination and drive as an astronaut take her to space, where she’s deeply moved by the transcendent experience of seeing her life from afar. Back home as Lucy’s world suddenly feels too small, her connection with reality slowly unravels.
Sometimes you just want to shake people and tell them that they should have known better and on Lucy In The Sky everyone really should have known better. It’s an incredibly strong premise that gets mishandled by subpar direction, underdeveloped writing and performances that just border on hokey.
Writer/Director Noah Hawley who has an extensive TV background as a writer (and occasional director) moves to features here it is obviously that he is woefully out of his depth. It all looks great and it has great intent as this story which was “sort-of” inspired by a true story could have been a great glimpse into the human psyche and the effects of going into space and quite literally seeing the great unknown. On another end it could have been a great forward thinking commentary on how women have been mistreated and unappreciated in the workplace having to work two-three times as hard as the men in hopes of getting something close to equal pay. Problem is it’s never quite sure what it wants to be, trying to hard to be all those things in the limited story telling window allowed.
The rest of the writing team in Brian C Brown and Elliott DiGuiseppi just didn’t have the chops to bring this across the goal line as Hawley pulled in a member of his writing team on his TV shows and a post-production coordinator to write some high concept psychological science-fiction. It’s a mess from minute one and is never quite sure what lane it needs to be in. Is it a feminist drama? Is it a psychological case study? The answer is Yes, but it lacks such focus (not to mention any kind of legitimate character development outside of Portman) that all we see is an emotionally scattershot tale when it could have been so much more.
Choices in cast and direction we’re unquestionably a little suspect as well. There’s no doubt that Natalie Portman is one of the better working actresses out there today, but her doing a southern Texas accent just didn’t work and came off as grating and pointless. She’s trying to have something of a breakdown as she comes to grips with her experiences in space but rather than seeing the subtle collapse of someone with an incredibly high IQ and ingrained emotional stability have a legitimate mental crisis, we see logic get thrown out the window in favor of her basically going ‘Crazy Town Banana Pants” on us.
The balance of the ensemble is solid but outside of Jon Hamm and is one dimensional single dad astronaut the likes of Zazie Beetz, Dan Stevens, Ellen Burstyn, Tig Notaro, Jeffery Donovan and Nick Offerman basically had little if not NOTHING to work with and come off as ancillary players in Portman’s narrative arc, they simply provide no structure for what she’s going through.
It’s sad, because we really did want to like Lucy In The Sky as it does at least broad stroke over some very interesting and relevant points on a variety of fronts; however this just isn’t the case. This movie feels like the equivalent of getting stoned, staring at the walls and giggling all day. There’s things you’ll enjoy about that in the moment, but you won’t be able to shake loose the concept that you should have been doing a little more with your life then watch this movie.