By Chris Cannataro
Let’s call a spade a spade. Lucy in the Sky is a bad movie.
Over my time at TIFF I saw and reviewed quite a few movies. But before the screening of Lucy in the Sky, I had this strange idea solidified in my mind that I had somehow, miraculously picked the best films that were screened. Then came Lucy in the Sky to humble me. Maybe, I was foolish to think I could get through a film festival without seeing a bad film.
Based on true events, Natalie Portman plays the role of real-life astronaut Lucy Cola, who throughout the film, decides to make a series of poor choices because she wants to go back to space and maybe had a rough upbringing. This movie doesn’t make very much clear about her backstory, and it doesn’t help that Natalie Portman’s southern accent isn’t very strong. Also, there’s a love-triangle plotline that isn’t setup well at all but seems to be what pushes the plot forward. So, the very character that this movie is based around isn’t a very convincing character. What adds insult to injury is that this is far from Natalie Portman’s first role as a female protagonist with a deteriorating psyche. Maybe we set the bar too high?
To be honest, none of the characters in this movie are very convincing other than astronauts Erin Eccles (played by Zazzie Beetz) and Mark Goodwin (played by Jon Hamm), but that judgement may be clouded, as I have watched and enjoyed their roles as characters in Atlanta and Mad Men, two of my favorite television series. I think the role that really stole the show was that of Blue Iris (played by Pearl Amanda Dickinson), Lucy’s niece, who passively observes Lucy’s erratic behavior and eventually stumbles herself into being an accomplice in the plot to kidnap (or murder? Assault? They don’t make it very clear) Eccles and Goodwin at the climax of the movie. But the real kicker about this is that Lucy and niece see no jail time (probably because the plot is so unclear that the police just wanted the movie to end) and Lucy lives out the rest of her days on a ranch as a beekeeper. I know it sounds ridiculous, that’s because it was ridiculous.
It seems that the movie’s 27-million-dollar budget went mainly to the casting of the film and the set pieces, not to ensuring coherent writing and scripting. But on the bright side, the set and costume design were on point. The subject matter of the film had the potential to be incredibly thoughtful - how does one go on after getting a perspective so mind blowing that you couldn’t even try to explain it? A lot can be done with the idea of detaching from reality due to a life altering experience, but this film does nothing to make you want to empathize with Lucy.
Sometimes you don’t get to see good movies in a row. Sometimes the plot of a movie, or the acting, or the writing just don’t connect. Sometimes you go to space, and when you come back things just aren’t the same. To summarize my experience with Lucy in the Sky: Sometimes you just have a bad go of it.
Editor’s note: Lucy in the Sky was originally screened at the Toronto International Film Festival 19’.