Lucy in the Sky (★★½)
Rated R, 124 minutes.
Opens Friday at the Angelika Film Center in Plano and Landmark’s Magnolia Theatre in Dallas.
After the FX television series Fargo showcased filmmaker Noah Hawley’s strengths as a wordsmith (nearly Aaron Sorkin-like), and his other notable show Legion shone a light on his visual storytelling abilities, Lucy in the Sky should have been a sure-fire bet for success. Really, it should have been a perfect marriage for Hawley to blast off and become a household name.
Despite all his talents and Natalie Portman’s fierce performance as an astronaut who loses her grip on reality, Lucy in the Sky is elevated Lifetime movie material that hits significant turbulence due to its lackluster script and visual overload.
There’s no other way to put it: It’s a disappointment. Whenever your central character is trying to make you relate to their story with soliloquies about “why did the chicken cross the road,” you know Houston has problems aplenty.
That’s not to say it’s all bad. Hawley does some fascinating work with his camera and scene transitions. Much of it is admittedly an overkill (all the constant frame blurring and aspect ratio changes will irritate viewers). However, there are a handful of moments where I had to applaud Hawley’s ambition and execution.
I just wish he put as much focus into his character language as the visual language. Some roles are not filled out enough to feel like real human beings, such as Dan Stevens’ part as an always-supportive husband to Portman’s title character.
Many comparisons can be drawn to Joker. Of course, Lucy in the Sky is not nearly as dark or interesting, but it does make a grand attempt to put you inside a psychologically rattled mind. Portman’s character simply got a taste of space and couldn’t let go of it. As soon as she touches back down on Earth, it’s all about trying to get back up there. Any tie to space is like heroin to her. This includes getting under the sheets with fellow space man Mark Goodwin (Jon Hamm).
So much is admirable about Lucy in the Sky, but the far-off-base approach is too goofy. If Hawley had taken another pass on the script and toned down the style, perhaps the film would have the awards potential it so desperately wants. Maybe Hawley should stick to long-form storytelling until he cracks the code on how to make his otherworldly style function within a two-hour window.