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Lucy in the Sky

LUCY IN THE SKY didn't just bomb in theatres last year, it was a legendary failure, earning just $319,000 at the box office. That's a record you dont want to hold. After seeing it, I'm baffled as to why.

The film's first ten minutes is visually arresting, setting the tone for what's ahead. Astronaut Lucy Cola (Natalie Portman in a great performance) hovers above the Earth, tethered to the space shuttle but experiencing near rapture as she looks down at the planet revolving toward her.

This is Director Noah Hawley's big screen directing debut and I'm apparently alone in thinking its auspicious. He's done superb work on TV before, especially with his FX series adaption, writing and directing "Fargo".

Hawley plays with sound and visual aspect ratios. The screen goes from square to wide to ultra wide, free flowing from one to the other in a way that keeps you on your toes. He overwhelms you with the silence of space, then wraps you in the haunting, swirling chords of Jeff Russo's music score.

The Dolby Atmos sound mix is fantastic.

As Lucy returns to Earth, her experience in space leaves her empty on the ground. Her purpose is missing, her existence feels small.

Her husband Drew (Dan Stevens of "Downton Abbey") feels Lucy pulling away from him and coming un-moored.

Her daughter Iris (Pearl Amanda Dickson) follows at her Mom's heels, but grows more and more confused by her behavior.

Fellow astronaut Mark Goodwin (Jon Hamm) falls into an affair with Lucy, but grows terrified as she begins to act irrationally.

Portman is the troubled heart of the movie. She's excellent in her transformation from smart, devoted astronaut to a woman obsessed with leaving the planet.

Lucy's only moments of clarity seem to be with her Mom, Nana Holbrook. Foul-mouthed, powerful and driven, Ellen Burstyn (The Exorcist) shows no signs of slowing down at 87 years old.

Hawley takes a quiet story and pulls you through it, often looking at his characters from far above them in the sky, widening his camera shots into ultra wide images that make you look from far left to far right to soak them up.

The more Lucy loses her mind, the faster the film moves, barreling toward a conclusion that's suddenly quiet and reflective.

I loved Hawley's novels "Before the Fall" and "The Good Father". For whatever reason, I connect with the way he tells a story on the page or on the screen.

I really loved this movie, but I'm one of the few. Most audiences were bored, I was fascinated. Between her role here and her excellent performance as another woman slipping out of sanity in Alex Garland's brilliant 'Annihilation" in 2018, Portman is a force portraying strong women whose paths plunge them into mental devastation.

She's fantastic, and so is this riveting, little seen film. LUCY IN THE SKY gets an A.

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