In the Sky
really did happen, back in 2007, though maybe not in all these
particulars. Going unhinged is not so much about the particulars,
anyway, so much as it is being overwhelmed by the feeling that you’re in
a free fall, and there’s no parachute. And there’s no soft place
to land, either.
(Natalie Portman) was always first---first in her class at Annapolis, high
school valedictorian, first in the select group chosen to be astronauts.
She was intense in both her physical and mental preparation, and when the
big moment came, to be shot into space, it was everything she thought it
would be---and even more. Floating in space was beyond exhilarating;
it was feeling alive at a level she never believed possible. She was
ecstatic and euphoric and overwhelmed with awe at the beauty and wonder of
it all. And then, quite literally, she came back down to earth.
What she was not prepared for was how humdrum that would be.
not like she didn’t have anything going in her personal life. She
had a loving husband, a good, religious man who also worked for NASA in
their public relations department. Lucy immediately begins competing
for a spot in the next mission. She was even helping to care for her
teenaged niece, because she was the responsible one, and her brother, like
both their parents, wasn’t. Lucy loved her salty grandmother
(played to crusty perfection by Ellen Burstyn), overlooking both the fact
that she was an irreverent drunk, and that Lucy was becoming more like her
out of character, Lucy initiates an affair with a fellow astronaut (Jon
Hamm), one who had been “up there” like she had, and now, recently
divorced, seemed to be also searching for anything resembling that
physical high. But Lucy’s judgment is off; she doesn’t realize
he’s not as serious about her as she is about him; in fact her married
status makes him feel free to pursue her rival astronaut. So now
Lucy has a desperate jealousy to add to her unmooring. It all comes
to a head in staggeringly seedy fashion. But then, a fall from grace
is never lovely.
Portman is mesmerizing in this complex, unsympathetic role. It’s
not much fun watching Lucy’s life disintegrate. But Portman’s
multilayered performance adds some pitiable pathos to an otherwise tawdry
tale of downward spiraling.