Not Enough Diamonds to Save ‘Lucy in the Sky’

by KB Burke on October 18, 2019

in Print Reviews,Reviews

[Rating: Minor Rock Fist Down]

Life is full of moments… moments where you have major events… moments where you fall in love… moments when everything around you seems to be falling apart. In the new movie, Lucy in the Sky, Natalie Portman has her moments, as her character tries to navigate life in the midst of an existential crisis.

Based on events that happened to Lisa Nowak, she plays an astronaut who has a transcendental moment after seeing Earth from space and returning to life’s day to day. Just like her real-life counterpart, she starts an affair with another astronaut, played here by Jon Hamm, as her life starts to fall apart and she totally unravels in the process. While her character could be seen as a sympathetic character, the movie’s attempt to share her that way falls short.

Portman’s Lisa Cola is smart, competitive, and determined to never be in second place. It could stem from her alcoholic-laden background, highlighted by her brash Nana (Ellen Burstyn). It could be the desire to be better than the new female competition (the new “it” girl, Zazie Beetz). Maybe it’s the lifelong pursuit to be noticed and accepted, while her doting husband (Dan Stevens) represents the safe choices she’s always made. There was always those parameters to push and satisfy her until she does a little space walk and the transcendence of the moment changes everything. “You go up there. You see everything… the whole universe. And everything here looks… so small.” That feeling of insignificance fast tracks her own descent in every aspect of her life. 

Natalie Portman and Jon Hamm in the film LUCY IN THE SKY. Photo by Hilary B. Gayle. © 2019 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation All Rights Reserved

Director Noah Hawley took some creative freedom choices in his debut film. Some worked. Some scenes are voyeuristic, making you feel immersed. His choice to use overhead shots as if zoomed down from space initially worked until it was overused. Less is more! The biggest miss was the constantly changing format ratios (the black bars on the screen). Changing to a 4:3 format has been used before (The Grand Budapest Hotel) to denote time. But Hawley’s over use of various ratios (SOMETIMES IN THE SAME SCENE!) missed in its artistic attempt to create drama. The audience may have been better served with camera zooms than the dizzying effect used here. There is a clever use of sound motif where you’re drawn into Lucy’s mind, hearing her go through her safety checks in an intense sense as if it was a protection mechanism. If only there was less overall usage of it to dramatically balance this film. 

Natalie Portman in the film LUCY IN THE SKY. Photo Courtesy of Fox Searchlight Pictures. © 2019 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation All Rights Reserved

The Apollo 11 astronaut Michael Collins orbited the moon in solitude. His famous quote is mentioned in the film: “I am alone now, truly alone, and absolutely isolated from any known life. I am it.” A more descriptive quote of this film is mentioned toward the end of the movie by Jon Hamm’s character: “Perfect. Now it’s a complete shit show.” And it’s a shame because, with great acting all around in every principal character, this haphazard movie had an opportunity to be more than it was. 

KB is a native New Yorker/Midwest transplant who’s into tech, sports, and the arts, especially film and music. He still aspires to be a DJ in his other life. You can frequently catch him watching Hitchcock classics, film noir, and anything Star Wars.

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