“Lucy In The Sky” is loosely based on the 2007 story of Lisa Nowak, a NASA astronaut who got so jealous of her boyfriend’s lover that she followed them from Houston to Orlando and tried to kidnap the woman. It was a pretty good tabloid story enhanced by a report that Nowak had worn adult diapers on the 14-hour drive. She later denied that detail, but it was the basis of lots of jokes on morning radio, late night TV, and the supermarket tabloids.
Unfortunately, director Noah Hawley and his co-screenwriters Brian C. Brown and Elliot DiGuiseppi couldn’t stick to that tale, instead turning it into a psychological drama about a woman coming unravelled. That’s often hard to present on the big screen, and this effort doesn’t work at all.
I will now pause for 15 seconds so Natalie Portman can stare at nothing in particular.
Natalie Portman is fine as Lucy Cola, the astronaut who’s been awed by her experience on the space shuttle and International Space Station, only to find upon her return that her Earthbound life is far too mundane. Though happily married to a NASA public relations man, she begins an affair with Mark Goodwin (Jon Hamm), a fellow astronaut with a bad boy streak (e.g. he likes to have a six-pack of beer for lunch). He turns out to be the bad guy, but the script doesn’t make him bad enough.
With her Dorothy Hamill haircut, Portman looks and sounds like a young Holly Hunter (circa “Raising Arizona”). While watching her character supposedly deteriorate mentally, it’s hard not to find analogies to “Black Swan,” in which she played a ballet dancer falling apart. Call this one “Space Swan,” but my wife wants to know whether we really needed another movie about a woman going crazy.
I will now pause for another 15 seconds so Natalie Portman can stare at nothing in particular.
Hawley has proven his storytelling bona fides as the showrunner of the TV series “Fargo,” which I’m looking forward to another season of whenever he gets around to it. It’s too bad he wasted his time directing this pablum. Rather, I should say he over-directed it. He plays with the aspect ratio, switching for no reason between full screen, letterboxed, and square screens. He also overuses a soft outer focus in the scenes when Lucy is losing it. Oh, and the whole thing runs a little over two hours when there’s barely one hour of story to tell.
Worst of all, he uses that Portman-staring trope at least a half-dozen times. Please count to fifteen before continuing.
The music, scored by Jeff Russo, is overwrought throughout, with ethereal sounds clashing with out-of-place rock tunes like the B-52s’ “My Own Private Idaho.” And then there’s the title song.
Yes, the producers paid a lot of money to buy the rights to The Beatles’ “Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds.” They named the movie after the song, probably in the hopes that you’d confuse it with an actual Fab Four-related movie like “Yesterday.” Yet there’s no connection at all, except for one scene when the tune plays — and it’s not even the original! Instead, we hear a bizarre, confusing arrangement (by Russo) with Irish singer Lisa Hannigan doing the vocals. It is the worst version of the song I’ve ever heard. That’s saying a lot, considering how often I used William Shatner’s rendition over the years as punishment music during The Harris Challenge. Yep, it’s worse than that!
I’ll sum up the movie after another 15-second pause for Natalie Portman to stare at some bees in honeycombs. I’m not kidding.
Everything about this movie was terrible, from the script to the direction to the waste of talented actors. Even the sense of direction is off, as (spoiler alert!) Portman follows Hamm to San Diego — not Orlando. As if anyone even cared by that point.
“Lucy In The Sky” will be on my Worst Movies Of 2019 list. I give it a 1 out of 10.