Lucy in the Sky, the directorial debut of Noah Hawley (the creator of FX’s Legion and Fargo) is a star-studded and ambitious new spacefaring drama. However, despite the sheer abundance of potential this film had, this ends up being one of the year’s biggest disasters due to the fact that Hawley simply doesn’t seem to know what he is doing.
Inspired by true events, the movie follows an astronaut who begins to lose touch with reality after returning from space and feeling enlightened by her experiences. The true story upon which this film is loosely based is actually pretty insane, and yet the approach that Hawley and writers Elliot DiGuiseppi and Brian C. Brown takes manages to turn it into little more than an average melodrama.
There is some interesting subtext in the movie about obsession and its similarities to addiction, but these are sadly buried by the film’s underwhelming attempts to be profound. More often than not, it seems as if the filmmakers were so caught up in trying to be smart and insightful that their work loses almost all of the potential impact that it potentially had.
One of the main problems with the movie is that there is not a character with whom the audience can easily identify. The protagonist, Lucy, isn’t a particularly likable character. Although some viewers may find her quest to find her place in the greater scheme of things to be compelling, many will be put off by her relentlessly selfish actions.
Even though the cast assembled for the film consists of some of the most talented actors working today, their performances never reach their full potential because the material limits them. Natalie Portman gives a solid turn in the title role, and while she never reaches the level of her best work, she is the main reason why the movie is even remotely watchable. The supporting cast includes names such as Jon Hamm, Dan Stevens, Zazie Beetz, Ellen Burstyn, Jeffery Donovan, and Nick Offerman, although they each only get one or two memorable scenes.
That said, perhaps the most frustrating thing about this film is that Hawley tries to experiment with his style to a distracting extent. The aspect ratio of the movie is constantly changing, and it would be hard not to notice. Sometimes the aspect ratios will be comically bad, such as a few instances in which the shot is ridiculously thin, or one side of the screen is left entirely black. To add insult to injury, these decisions are often entirely unwarranted.
Many other choices made by Hawley are questionable. The production design in many sequences is actually quite good, but other scenes utilize excessive green screen or CGI effects and end up being extremely distracting. The soundtrack is also frequently poorly-fit to the film, and even though the score is beautiful on its own, the way in which it is aligned with the visuals doesn’t exactly work.
Likely one of the most disappointing movies of 2019, Lucy in the Sky is a total mess. Even though the script is decent and the ensemble is gifted, Hawley just didn’t have what it takes to bring his vision to life.
Lucy in the Sky is now playing in theaters.