Set your expectations accordingly: there are no adult diapers in “Lucy in the Sky.”
I know you were wondering, but that (rumored) detail from the true events on which this film is (loosely) based, where a crazed woman drives across the country to confront a cheating boyfriend and wears Depends so she won’t have to stop, is nowhere to be found.
“Lucy in the Sky” tells the story of NASA astronaut Lisa Nowak’s criminal activities and arrest that stemmed from her romantic affair with fellow astronaut William Oefelein. It’s a lurid, wacky true story that’s given a Hollywood spin that’s so weirdly interesting, it isn’t a total loss.
Astronaut Lucy Cola (Natalie Portman) returns to Earth after a lengthy space mission and soon begins an affair with fellow astronaut Mark Goodwin (Jon Hamm). Due to her otherworldly experience so far from home, Lucy has difficulty adjusting to la normal life back on Earth. Lucy soon heads into a downward spiral as she severs her connection with her familial support system, including her husband (Dan Stevens), Nana (Ellen Burstyn), and niece (Pearl Amanda Dickson). When Lucy discovers her lover has begun a second affair with a younger astronaut trainee (Zazie Beetz), the bottom drops out and she loses all control.
This is a jumbled, wacky story that’s perfectly conveyed through this suitably oddball movie. Part art house film and part true crime tabloid serial, director Noah Hawley goes all out in his ambitious first-time feature film. He’s essentially made two movies in one, and the final project suffers overall as a result of its split personality.
The majority of the film is a pensive reflection on feeling small in the universe, while also exploring Lucy’s ability to thrive in a male-dominated workplace and field. It’s a complicated, emotional drama about human nature, yet the story is more of the ‘show and tell’ variety, rather than choosing the more difficult path of presenting something truly insightful.
It’s not Portman’s fault; her dedication to her performance is to be commended. While at times she appears a little over-the-top, she mirrors the showy personality of the film. Hawley makes a few too many rookie directing mistakes, which in turn make everything seem like it was made by a film student who throws every visual cliché into the mix. The constantly shifting aspect ratio is gimmicky and distracting, and little camera flourishes and the pretentious use of slow-motion and splashy lighting choices become maddening. There’s so much obvious, heavy symbolism that even the most literal of moviegoers will take notice.
I loved the first hour of “Lucy in the Sky” but once the lead character goes totally crazy, the film manages to lose steam quickly. While much of the film strives to show women can work hard to amass as many impressive achievements as their male colleagues, the end devolves Lucy into another overly emotional, hysterical woman who cares only about her relationship with a man. It’s disappointing that it had to end that way.