Reel Reviews | Lucy in the Sky

by Charles Kirkland Jr.

Natalie Portman reaches for the stars in her portrayal of real-life astronaut Lucy Cole in Lucy in the Sky.

Lucy Cole (Natalie Portman) is an astronaut. She has been a specialist Working on the space station and has found her true calling. Having experienced the beauty of space, everything on Earth seems a little mundane, a little off. Boring. A number of her colleagues who have the same experience trying to assure her that her feelings are normal and will pass but, Lucy is convinced that the only answer is for her to return to space. Fueled by her desire which is stoked by her dominating Nana (Ellen Burstyn), Lucy embarks on a focused mission to achieve her goal.

Directed by Noah Hawley (TV’s Fargo, Legion) and co-written by Hawley, Brian C. Brown and Elliott DiGuiseppi Lucy In The Sky stars Portman, Jon Hamm, and Zazie Beetz. The film is a convoluted and confounding tale inspired by the actual events in the life of disgraced astronaut Lisa Nowak. That being said, there are a couple of significant differences from the actual story to the film.

First, the appearance. Nowak was a woman from the Washington, DC area. Cole is a woman from Texas. Nowak was a decently good-looking woman. Portman’s Cole however is a strange-looking woman. She wears a weird short bob of a haircut and dresses too much like either a tomboy or her Nana. Coupled with a heavy Texas accent, Portman could have been trying to get the pretty/ugly look that Charlize Theron achieved in Monster.

Second, the story. While the story of Novak’s journey was slightly interesting (Google it if you don’t know), Lucy Cole’s story is terribly inane and uninteresting. In this movie, Cole is fixated upon getting back into space and then embarks on a detour that makes no sense. How does one as focused as she was ever making such a glaring mistake? The only explanation given is…maybe, space dementia? Really? That excuse did not even work for Rockhound in Armageddon.

Sometimes an actor’s work outshines the material given. Portman’s work in this role could be one of those exceptions. She carries the role well, showing good range. She holds on tight to her Texas accent with a single waver. But ultimately, the material’s lack of authenticity hinders her work. If this is a case of a decent (or could we ascent) into madness, it is poorly documented by this script. Additionally, how many more times can we see Jon Hamm being a butthole?

Hawley tries to overcome scriptural misgivings through technical effects like angle changes and different aspect ratios during this film but these effects play much better on his FX show Legion than they do here. Lucy in the Sky is rated R language and some sexual content but it’s getting a grade of “Don’t Go” for poor storytelling and boredom.

Grade: D