Picture yourself on a seat in a theater with Natalie Portman and big, starry skies…
That’s what you’ll find in Noah Hawley’s new film “Lucy in the Sky” (2019), complete with a Beatles-inspired name and a star-studded cast. The film is loosely based on the life of naval flight officer and astronaut Lisa Nowak, renamed Lucy Cola for the screen. Nowak was at the center of an attempted murder scandal in 2007. “Lucy in the Sky” tells the story of how she got to that point; starting with her mission on the Discovery space shuttle.
“The rich plot and stunning visuals don’t make up for the lackluster character development. The real-life story has potential to produce an in-depth character study with enough drama and stakes to make an impactful feature. Yet, “Lucy In the Sky” leaves something to be desired.”
After the Discovery mission, Lucy Cola (Natalie Portman) has to readjust to life on Earth. At the same time, she’s training in hopes of being selected for another mission. While in space, Lucy gained perspective of the vastness of the universe and the relatively small size of humanity. Coming back to solid ground is a struggle for her — all she wants is to go back to space, to the feeling of wonder and awe. She’s no longer satisfied with the grounded life. This affects every aspect of her world, resulting in an affair with a fellow astronaut, Mark Goodman (Jon Hamm) and the plummuting of her marriage and career. She reaches her breaking point in a sequence of events that ends with her arrest.
The rich plot and stunning visuals don’t make up for the lackluster character development. The real-life story has potential to produce an in-depth character study with enough drama and stakes to make an impactful feature. Yet, “Lucy In the Sky” leaves something to be desired. The problem lies in the writing of Lucy’s character. She’s the titular character but even after spending just over two hours watching her on-screen, it’s difficult to describe who she is.
Her background is unclear and the film seems more interested in her romantic relationships with her husband and lover than with how things are affecting her as a person. The way she lashes out at the end of the film suggests she is facing deep inner turmoil, but the viewer was not able to see Lucy experience that. Instead, they are shown the way her life is affected, not her.
In the end, she makes rash decisions that destroy her job, friendships, family and romantic relationships. Seeing the buildup in Lucy instead of just the ripples would make for a stronger, more memorable film. Natalie Portman puts her all into the role of Lucy, but no amount of great acting can change the weak character development. It’s a shame and a disservice to Portman because the story has such potential, but the execution is disappointing.
“Lucy In the Sky” boasts visual beauty and Portman’s strong performance, but those elements are overshadowed by the lack of depth in Lucy’s character. The timing of the release suggests it’s an Oscar hopeful for Portman, but the shortfalls of the writing may prevent success during awards season.”
The film was written by three men and directed by one…and it shows. Men are fully capable of writing complex female characters, but sometimes, the perspective of a woman is necessary. “Lucy in the Sky” is one of those cases. Lucy is shown mainly through her relationships to men. Her husband and male coworkers make up most of the supporting cast.
There are some women sprinkled in, but it’s insufficient. Lucy’s mother, niece, and two female coworkers are the only other women given screen time. They seldom speak, though, and their relationships to Lucy are left unexplored. Their roles are ultimately irrelevant to the story, with scenes so short that their removal would have little effect on the film as a whole.
“Lucy In the Sky” boasts visual beauty and Portman’s strong performance, but those elements are overshadowed by the lack of depth in Lucy’s character. The timing of the release suggests it’s an Oscar hopeful for Portman, but the shortfalls of the writing may prevent success during awards season. The film is disappointing considering what it could have been, but may still be worth the watch for Portman fans and space-lovers because despite all the film’s faults, space movies are stunning on the big screen.