Hamm and Portman are the highlight of Lucy in the Sky.
We didn’t know a lot about Lucy in the Sky prior to watching the film. We knew it was loosely based on true events and that the trailer gave the appearance of a female astronaut spiraling down in a desperate attempt to return to space. It looked interesting enough, and the presence of acting heavyweights Natalie Portman and Jon Hamm provided some star power. However, the story it told wasn’t what we were expecting.
Astronaut Lucy Cola (Portman) returns from space having been amazed at the vastness she observed whilst orbiting the planet. Back on Earth, Lucy finds that her day-to-day life now feels incredibly small. That feeling begins to push a wedge into her relationships, most notably with her husband, Drew (Dan Stevens; Beauty and the Beast), and niece, Blue Iris (Pearl Amanda Dickson), who has come to live with the couple.
With her sole desire to return to space, Lucy dedicates herself to training and begins hanging around fellow astronaut Mark Goodwin (Hamm). Before long the two start having an affair, while Lucy also starts a rivalry with Erin Eccles (Zazie Beetz; Joker), a younger female astronaut that she views as her competition for a spot on a future mission to space.
Lucy’s behaviour becomes more erratic as she pushes herself, and when she learns that Mark is also seeing Erin things spiral completely out of control. Following the death of her grandmother, who’d served as a stabilizing force, Lucy leaves her husband and begins a cross-country drive with her niece to confront Mark and Erin, who are traveling to San Diego for a getaway together.
Performances in Lucy in the Sky are mostly strong with Hamm playing a likable male lead and Portman doing what she can to make Lucy a fully rounded character. They have some chemistry, and their scenes together are the film’s best as Mark serves as the only person that Lucy can really relate to. Ellen Burstyn seems to be having fun as Lucy’s no-nonsense, unfiltered grandmother, offering some sprinkles of comic relief.
Whatever story director Noah Hawley was trying to tell in his feature-length debut never comes together. What begins as a tale about a woman consumed with the idea of getting back into space devolves into a muddled love triangle. Lucy’s arc just comes across as absurd after a while, culminating in the ridiculous parking lot confrontation and eventual fallout of where she ends up after getting (we assume) kicked out of NASA. If that’s supposed to be a “happy ending,” it’s a miss, not to mention that the character doesn’t really deserve one.
If we were supposed to feel some level of sympathy for Lucy, we didn’t. She treats pretty much everyone around her poorly, and it made little sense to us when the niece decided to go with her when she abruptly left her husband during her grandmother’s funeral. The entire story arc just feels unfocused and poorly executed, and it effectively undermines the talent of the actors involved here.
Lucy in the Sky starts out with some promise, but it deteriorates into sillier and sillier stuff, culminating in an ending that had us shaking our heads at the absurdity of it all.