Picture yourself in a chair in a theater…with popcorn, candy and a cold drink. The movie begins, and you watch quite intently, a girl who can’t straightly think.
Natalie Portman’s “Lucy in the Sky” character, Lucy Cola, is inspired by real-life, former NASA astronaut Lisa Nowak. She made headlines back in 2007 when she was arrested and charged with attempted murder. Nowak drove 900-miles on a revenge quest and reportedly didn’t take any traditional bathroom breaks. She simply handled her business on the move… using diapers.
Dates, locations, names and other facts have been changed by director/co-writer Noah Hawley. And there are no diapers to be found (though that would’ve added a nice layer of authenticity). But the essence of Nowak — motivations and actions — is embodied in Portman’s Lucy.
The story in set in Houston in the mid 2000s. Following a 10-day Space Shuttle mission, Cola returns to Earth and her regular mundane life, which includes a boring husband and few friends. But she’s just not the same person. Like “Ad Astra”, “Lucy in the Sky” deals with the psychological struggles of being an astronaut. But while Pitt’s character internalized his emotions, Portman’s Lucy lashes-out against her hum-drum existence, which simply can’t live-up to the majesty she experienced while in the heavens.
Portman plays crazy well. You realize early on that it’s going to take a lot more than a backyard BBQ to cure her troubles (if that’s even possible). Unfortunately, Lucy is the only character in the film who truly pops, though that may be by design. The supporting crew members, including Dan Stevens as the husband, Ellen Burstyn as Lucy’s quirky Nana and fellow astronaut Jon Hamm hover throughout the script, but it’s Portman who gets to push all the dramatic buttons.
Hawley constantly changes the film’s aspect ratio, most likely an attempt to mirror Cola’s unstable mental state. The device isn’t successful. And the forced insertion of a modern rendition of the iconic Beatles title song only adds to the heavy-handed execution.
“Lucy in the Sky” doesn’t sparkle like a true diamond. It’s more in the cubic zirconia family — a softer, faux version of the real thing.
On The Official LCJ Report Card, “Lucy in the Sky” gets a C+.
Running Time: 124 min.