September 13, 2019

SHOWBUZZDAILY Toronto Film Festival Review: “Lucy In the Sky”


LUCY IN THE SKY (Fox Searchlight/Disney – October 4):  Lucy In the Sky may be Noah Hawley’s first feature film, but he’s already establishing himself as quite the overdirector.  Hawley’s X-Men off-shoot series Legion had a repertoire of shifting aspect ratios, surreal imagery and dislocations in sound, space and time that felt exciting and imaginative at first, but eventually engulfed any chance of the show having a comprehensible story or meaningful characters.  The result is worse in Lucy In the Sky, which has a more realistic base.  The plot is a free fictionalization of the Lisa Nowak saga, she being the US astronaut who chased the romantic competition for her fellow astronaut lover across the country (notoriously while wearing an adult diaper), in the hopes of winning him back.  Here she’s called Lucy Cola (Natalie Portman), and Hawley takes the position that her time in space, particularly during a space-walk, caused an existential alteration so powerful that she could no longer live with her sweet, boring husband Drew (Legion‘s Dan Stevens, in a thankless role), and became involved with Mark Goodwin (Jon Hamm).  Hawley gussies up this story with his full bag of tricks, including so many aspect ratio shifts (sometimes within a single scene) that it feels like the projectionist is doing drugs in the booth, as well as flashbacks, dream sequences and music choices that call attention to themselves (not to mention the too-cute-by-half title).  The idea is to pull us into Lucy’s distorted consciousness, but all the weirdness for the sake of weirdness has the opposite effect, making us think about Hawley rather than Lucy.  The film almost feels like a superhero origins story, but without the underlying mythology of a Legion, Lucy In the Sky merely feels self-indulgent, and Portman’s committed performance is lost in the clutter.  (The other performers barely make any impression at all.)  The technical contributions by Polly Morgan (cinematography), Regis Kimble (editing), Jeff Russo (score) and the rest of the team are impressive in the abstract, but gimmicky in this context.  Hawley seems to be afraid that if he doesn’t jerk at our lapels with one show-off moment after another, he’ll lose our attention.  Lucy In the Sky wants to take wing, and instead it crashes its vehicle.

About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."