REVIEW: Lucy in the Sky
It has been an exceptionally disappointing year for smart, serious science fiction on the screen. In a short period, we had the crash and burn of Ad Astra and Lucy in the Sky, the latter of which has been made available for streaming by Fox Home Entertainment ahead of its inevitable release on disc.
Where Noah Hawley’s Legion was a surreal character study that got you involved with the characters, this film, co-written with Brian C Brown and Elliott DiGuiseppi, keeps every character at arm’s length. We open with mission specialist Lucy Cola in space and follow her re-entry into Earth’s atmosphere.
Clearly, like so many real-world astronauts, the experience was deeply affecting, but unlike the others, she is now forever altered and no one notices. Those closest to her, such as her husband Drew (Dan Stevens) and grandmother Nana Holbrook (Ellen Burstyn), seem oblivious.
At NASA, her psychiatrist Will Plimpton (Nick Offerman) and colleague Mark Goodwin (Jon Hamm) suspect something’s off, but the former does little about it while the latter embarks on a torrid affair with her. He’s been to space and becomes the only one she even attempts to articulate how being among the stars has altered her perceptions.
Over time, Lucy begins spiraling out of control with minimal efforts to help her, while Mark gives up on her in favor of Erin Eccles (Zazie Beetz), an astronaut/rival. All of which builds up to Lucy being denied a return to space so stalks Mark accompanied by her niece Blue Iris (Pearl Amanda Dickson.
The back half of the film is heavily influenced by the 2007 incident that saw Capt. Lisa M. Nowak arrested after attacking Colleen Shipman, an Air Force captain she saw as a romantic rival.
Across the 2:05 of the running time, we don’t get to know any character with any depth nor do we sympathize with Lucy as reality slips from her grasp. There’s a sterility to the storytelling that leaves you looking at your watch and wondering who thought this was a good way to make a film.
Kudos to Hawley and cinematographer Polly Morgan for playing with the aspect ratio, making it an actual part of the story, honing in and out of Lucy’s perceptions.
The streaming edition was reviewed and looks just grand on your home television screen. The film is accompanied by four Deleted Scenes (9:47), one of which attempted to show another side of Lucy and one which gave Mark some character. There are four other pieces — Directors Journey (5:12), Creating Magical Realism (6:50), Making Space (5:42), Lucy Cola (4:15) – are all too short and all too on the surface to be involving or help explain how this misfired.