An astonishing film, easily one of the year's best
It's clear a lot of critics don't know what to make of this movie. It's
best described as mostly a fantasy with naturalistic elements. The
emotions are real, they are strong, and the film is always grounded in
the earth. But you are never quite sure where it is going. It will veer
into farce, then melodrama, then social commentary, and back again. It
seems to be taking place in the present day, yet not quite: the
sensibilities are from the 60s, the entrepreneurial we-can-do-it spirit
from the 80s, and the despair from the 00s. It is strange, and it is
dreamlike, and at times it seems to barely make sense, but it all
works. The audience I was with was enthralled and almost all of them
stayed through the end of the credits -- a good sign indeed.
I can imagine what the high-concept presentation must have been like:
"It's just your typical save-the-farm family drama, only dad is a . .
"Don't tell me. A space alien," yawns the studio-head.
"Well, close, but not quite. He's a former astronaut who may be a nut
case, we're never quite sure."
The studio-head is a little more interested. "And he;s planning to blow
up the world?"
"No, though a lot of people think he is."
The head of the studio thinks about. "I think I like it. Throw in some
cute kids and we've got ourselves a movie."
I'm being cynical, of course, and this is not a cynical movie. There is
not a false note in it in fact, the music is perfect, the
cinematography is first-rate, the casting is superb (watch for Bruce
Dern looking very similar to Doc Brown in the Back to the Future
movies). While inspirational, follow your dream movies usually don't
work for me, this one does, it has such an amazingly goofy charm that
only the stiffest of film critics could resist it (and alas, according
to that well-known movie review site, as I write this just under 40%
don't get it.) If this movie in not on most 10-best lists at year-end,
it is going to be one heck of a year.
I don't know if the film is going to do well. Early box office looks
weak, but word- of-mouth may help. See it in a theater now if you are
at all hesitant. This one will be remembered.
One final note: something like this story could actually happen in a
generation or two, assuming humanity doesn't destroy itself. That
spaceship-in-the-barn tale will make a great movie when it does. This
story makes a great movie now..
asharihassan watch Imitation Of Life movie
What a motivational movie. I like it so much..
fritz2373 watch Defying Gravity movie
I love the movie RED, can't wait for sequal..
ainokea watch Collectors movie
A fAvorite. Fun to wAtch And leArn from. Very inspirAtionAl. .
BarbLatt watch Pumping Iron movie
I love this movie. A wonderful tale of not giving up on your dreams.
kingpinvet watch The City Is Mine movie
the astronaut farmer aaaaaaaaa.
If I was building a weapon of mass destruction, you wouldn't be able to find it Charlie Farmer
I hope you got a chuckle or two out of that quote that you read at the
beginning of this review because laughs are very few and far between in
The Astronaut Farmer. I haven't been this depressed since Leonardo
DiCaprio sank like a frozen Popsicle at the end of Titanic. I suppose
Farmer is supposed to be uplifting in some kind of spiritual way, but
it spends so much of its time shoving you and it's characters into a
bottomless pit of hopelessness that I'm not sure a hundred foot high
crane could pull you out let alone an Atlas Rocket.
Billy Bob Thornton plays Charlie Farmer, a former astronaut who never
was able to fly into space because he had to leave NASA to save the
family farm after Daddy Farmer bought the farm literally by doing
himself in. But dreams do die hard, and Charlie decides that after
saving the family farm, marrying and having his wife pop out a few
kids, it's time to make his dream come true. His wife Audrey (Virginia
Madsen) didn't know she was having those kids as cheap labor for
Charlie. And that's where we come in because when the film opens, the
rocket is pretty much built and ready to go so at least we don't have
to sit through an hour of watching him build the damn thing.
And it's a good thing he's about ready to go too because Charlie is in
debt up to the visor on his NASA Space Helmet. He's missed six mortgage
payments and the bank is about to foreclose. I guess his wife, Audrey,
just isn't making enough tips at the old diner to pay the mortgage
while hubby is out in the barn hammering together the old family space
capsule. And when the bank finally does decide to foreclose after over
a half a year of missed payments, Charlie shows his appreciation by
throwing a brick through the bank window. That's gratitude for you.
After throwing the brick, Charley is forced to have a session with a
school psychiatrist who also happens to be an ex-girlfriend. She tries
to explain to Charlie that he really wants to go into outer space
because of his father. Of course that's not it at all because Charlie
has this dream you see, and dreams should never die because if you
don't have your dreams, what have you got? So Charlie goes on about his
way, determined to orbit the earth as the first corn growing cattle
raiser in space. And it doesn't matter one iota if he drags his family,
his father-in-law and the audience down right along with him.
I actually had high hopes at the beginning of this film when Charlie
shows up for breakfast wearing a space suit in the very first scene. I
mean it sure seemed like Thornton was going to play one of the
strangely odd, whimsical, and funny characters he seems to have
cornered the market on. But it doesn't take long for us to find out
that there is a perfectly legitimate reason for him to be wearing the
space suit at the breakfast table. He is going to his kid's school to
give a talk about space travel and to let the kids see the suit. Yep,
for the first time in a while Billy-Bob plays this role straight down
the middle which is too bad. If any movie could use a lot more levity
this one could.
Then of course the big bad government eventually has to butt into the
act. I don't mind that so much as a plot device anymore because after
all these years of seeing it in thousands of movies, it turns out that
we should have been paying attention. We do have a big bad evil
Bruce Dern is on hand as Audrey's father. He thinks Charlie is a swell
dad. He doesn't have a whole lot to do in the movie except to literally
give everything he has to help bail the family out of trouble when the
plot calls for it. And Bruce Willis shows up midway through the film
also to offer some of his own advice to Charlie. The kids all look as
if they come from central casting. The teenage son (Max Theriot) spends
most of the movie looking spaced out which is perfectly understandable
considering who his father is.
As for Madsen, she always looks good in whatever role she is playing.
It's a good thing too because the way they've written her character of
Audrey, for much of the film I thought I was watching another remake of
The Stepford Wives. I mean, you're so far behind in your mortgage that
the bank is foreclosing and you know nothing about it? And to top it
off, when Charlie pulls the kids out of school to rush production on
his spaceship, Madsen's reaction amounts to look at Charlie lovingly,
smile, and say yes dear.
For the most part this film is seldom fun, and not very entertaining.
Even when Charley does decide to launch, the movie throws you another
curve ball as if The Polish Brothers who wrote and directed it want to
extend your misery for another half hour or so. By the time the end
credits role, you feel absolutely no jubilation. The only think you
feel is relief that it's all over.
So I don't know where The Polish Brothers got their inspiration for
this film, but certainly somebody should tell them that for a film to
be uplifting, it is not necessary to bury you in a grave of total
misery. And when you heap that much misery on me then I have no choice
but to give you my grade which for The Astronaut Farmer is an earth
bound, planted on the ground C-. Now go watch Lost in Space..