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Lucy in the Sky – Movie Review

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Lucy in the Sky – Movie Review

Rating: D+ (Bad)

Trailer/Thumbnail Courtesy Fox Searchlight Pictures

There’s an interesting story to be told about Lisa Nowak, the astronaut who drove across the country with intent to kidnap. Noah Hawley probably made the right decision to only loosely base Lucy in the Sky on that event, as names are changed and many events are switched around. The problem with the film is we never truly get to understand the psychological thought process of its central protagonist Lucy Cola. There are bits and pieces that peek into her psyche, but the film is structured in an odd way and we never get a handle of the relationships. Even Natalie Portman’s performance falls a little short.

The movie wants to explore how astronauts cope with returning back to Earth and it’s easy to see what Hawley is going for. However, Lucy in the Sky ends up hopping around and even as we’re introduced to the various participants, we don’t truly get to know them. Even Lucy only gets a few times to really show her unraveling, but the moment when she truly loses herself feels abrupt and unearned. The film tries to showcase her many relationships, but they’re not developed beyond being the husband, the lover, etc. Several scenes run too short to leave much of an impact. What should be the most exciting part of the story is largely left on the cutting room floor.

Natalie Portman tries her best, even though most of the performance consists of her attempting a Holly Hunter impression. Maybe if Lucy wasn’t so underwritten, she would have more to work with, but the psychological inner demons she’s going through aren’t presented in a way that’s effective. Noah Hawley’s direction is distracting a lot of the time, especially with the way he uses aspect ratios. Lucy in the Sky frequently shifts between widescreen, super widescreen and Academy ratio for no discernable reason. It’s possible this is done to show Lucy’s state of mind, but they’re inconsistently applied. All the changing screen sizes do is take one out of the movie.

There are other attempts at artistic direction that don’t quite soar. It’s understandable why Hawley would want to experiment and spice up the presentation, but the music cues and odd editing don’t enhance the story in any significant way. There are a few stand-out moments, though. The space scenes, what little there are, are beautifully done as we watch Lucy take in the stars. There is also a sequence in an airport that is genuinely suspenseful as there is an amount of uncertainty what Lucy will do next. Those little nuggets of inspiration make the film as a whole even more disappointing.

The ideas Lucy in the Sky wants to explore shine through on occasion, but the story is too muddled and is not developed enough to truly get an idea of the characters’ psychological state. Noah Hawley’s directorial choices are odd, especially the way in which he plays with the aspect ratios. So many creative decisions don’t add up or feel largely unnecessary and that makes for a long experience watching the movie. The seeds were there for a curious look into the minds of earthbound astronauts, but they end up lost within all of the other attempts at artistry and the way Lucy in the Sky plays with filmmaking techniques. Sometimes, a story just needs to be told in a straightforward manner.

Stefan Ellison

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