By Laurie Coker
There is a history, a deep one, behind Natalie Portman’s latest film, Lucy in the Sky. Stories and rumors flew like fireflies about the Paul McCartney, John Lennon song first performed by the Beatles for their Sgt. Pepper album in 1967. LSD (acid, Lucy) certainly, according to tabloids, was the reason behind or perhaps for, the composition. Director, Noah Hawley, presents a beautiful, sometimes entertaining, often trashy and limitedly malleable tale of a mind over the brink, like the title character in Shakespeare’s Othello.
Loosely based on astronaut Lisa Nowak’s bizarre criminal activities which came about because of her romantic involvement with fellow astronaut William Oefelein, Lucy in the Sky will likely prove to be one of Portman’s (Lucy Cola) most impressive performances. Nowak’s crazy behavior made headlines, but Hawley, who also claims co-writing credit, and screenwriters Brian C. Brown and Elliott DiGuiseppi give Lucy a backstory. Intense will, passion, and determination take Lucy into space where she appears to have an existential experience that sets her on a journey past a psychological point of no return.
Portman appears to gravitate to severely damaged characters, and Lucy is no different. She bares all for her portrayal – slowly, painstakingly unraveling like a string on a loose kite, fluttering haplessly and hopelessly on realities edge. Had Hawley known how to craft a more credible and less ironically comic character and situation, the movie might have worked better. He does not, and the result is messy, incredibly messy. Perhaps if a woman had directed or penned the film, Lucy’s plight would hold more credence. As it is, the vantage is limited by a misunderstanding of female emotions – an age-old issue. Still, Hawley manages a few awe-inspiring images – the most notable in the film’s opening minutes where Lucy floats above the Earth looking down upon the luster of lights highlighting it’s surface like vivid diamonds.
For all its promise, Hawley cannot pull Lucy in the Sky together enough to fall in line with Portman’s perfect performance. A master of accents and flawed characters, Portman paints an ideal version of Lucy’s life which she then deconstructs with frightening meticulousness. For his part, Hawley’s play with aspect ratios, framing, and angles serves more to confuse than congeal, and the effects are utterly dumbfounding at times. Praise goes to Portman, but Hawley and his writing team fail to deliver. Lucy in the Sky earns a meager C-. Bravo to Portman.