Lucy In the Sky

 

                It 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.

                Lucy (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.

                It’s 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 every day.

                Completely 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.

                Natalie 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.

 

Dr. Ronald P. Salfen, DFW Film Critics Association

 

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