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Lucy in the Sky

Lucy in the Sky (2019) Movie Poster
USA  •    •  124m  •    •  Directed by: Noah Hawley.  •  Starring: Natalie Portman, Jon Hamm, Zazie Beetz, Dan Stevens, Pearl Amanda Dickson, Ellen Burstyn, Colman Domingo, Jeremiah Birkett, Jeffrey Donovan, Tig Notaro, Stella Edwards, Arlo Mertz, Tobias Schönleitner.  •  Music by: Jeff Russo.
      The story of an astronaut who, upon returning to Earth from a life-changing mission in space, begins to slowly unravel and lose touch with reality.


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Image from: Lucy in the Sky (2019)
Image from: Lucy in the Sky (2019)
Image from: Lucy in the Sky (2019)
Image from: Lucy in the Sky (2019)
Image from: Lucy in the Sky (2019)
Lucy Cola(Natalie Portman) was in outer space, the ultimate out-of-body experience. That's god's eye view of earth; she never got over it. Lucy in the kitchen could not hold a candle to "Lucy in the Sky". How can anybody be expected to make dinner for three after being up there? So full of stars. Only so many ways to make meat loaf. What a letdown. Drew(Dan Stevens), the astronaut's stalwart husband, over time, realizes that Lucy looks down on him; face to face, not from the apogee of extreme verticality. Lucy has less contempt for Iris(Pearl Amanda Dickson), her niece, probably because she doesn't share the same DNA as her husband. Drew is just an ordinary guy. Lucy knew that when she married him. It's not his fault that he spouts out banalties such as: "Babe, you went to space." Drew is only a low-level NASA employee. Lucy is a rock star now. And rock stars want to hang out with other rock stars, not roadies. Mark Goodwin(John Hamm), her colleague from the same deep space mission, can relate with Lucy's withdrawal pangs that an astronaut undergoes after the natural high of omnipotence. She falls for him so hard. Lucy Cola, a fictionalized Discovery astronaut, a mission specialist in robotics, can't believe it when her second chance at happiness turns out to be a cad. Is there something going on between him and Erin(Zazie Beetz), the new recruit? Lucy breaks into Mark's e-mail server. There is. The astronauts are headed to the Space...needle, according to Mark's itinerary. Their rendezvous point is the Orlando International Airport. The stranger-than-fiction events leading up to Lucy's unexpected intervention of the secret lovers is when the staid "Lucy in the Sky", directed by Noah Hawley, kicks into overdrive. This film goes to 11.

Charlie Kaufman(Nicholas Cage), as in real life, hates formulaic screenplays. This is the guy who wrote "Being John Malkovich", Spike Jonze's breakthrough 1999 film, and served double duty on "Synecdoche, New York". But alas, writer's block and an encroaching deadline can transform even a highly-principled iconoclast into a minion, so in desperation, he recruits Donald(also played by Nicholas Cage), his twin brother, who learned to be a hack by attending screenwriting seminars hosted by Hollywood industry professionals. The hard nut that Charlie has to crack is an adaptation of Susan Orlean's "The Orchid Thief", a non-fiction book ill-suited for the big screen. The story of John LaRoche(Chris Cooper), a horticulturist, and Susan Orlean, staff writer for "The New Yorker", who documents his illegal poaching at a wildlife preserve, has no obvious plot points or character development. Jonze's "Adaptation"(2003), and the adaptation within the real adaptation written by the actual Charlie Kaufman, has no ending, Hollywood or otherwise. The horticulturist and reporter never find the elusive White Ghost, the holy grail of orchids. To the disappointment of Valerie Thomas(Tilda Swinton), a representative from the studio, is handed a script in which the reportersubject relationship, a professional one, is strictly abided by from both parties concerned. Being commercially-minded, she was hoping that a romance would blossom between the two main characters, starting with a "meet-cute", like the one Charlie envisions between himself and the waitress at a cafe(Judy Greer), when he invites her to an orchid show. Charlie, however, insists that the story not be "artificially-plot-driven". "The Orchid Thief", as a screenplay, has no story arc, because Charlie wants to devote complete fidelity to the source material. "Why can't there be a movie simply about flowers?" he asks, naively. There are. They're called documentaries. And you can find them on public television. But the adaptation of Susan Orlean's "The Orchid Thief" is a major studio project.

Lucy Cola loved her grandmother. During her stolen moments with this hunky astronaut, talking shop and more on the flatbed of his truck, Nana(Ellen Burstyn) goes into cardiac arrest. She never received her husband's desperate messages from her turned-off cell phone. Nana dies. That's when the untethering, which started in earnest, begins to gain traction. She is free.

"Lucy in the Lawyer's Office".

The writing and filming of the screenplay are happening simultaneously; that's the novelty of "Adaptation". Following the advice of his hotshot agent, Marty Bowen(Ron Livingston), Charlie makes a call from NYC for Donald to join him in a brainstorming session. He wants his less-talented, but potentially more commercially successful brother(Donald just sold "The 3" for a cool 1.5 million) to read and, gulp, critique his first draft. After Donald finishes the script, and encourages his socially-inept brother to meet Susan, he goes online to check out John LaRoche's sideline gig, a softcore site. And herein lies the moment in which, if the audience is paying attention, when Charlie's brother hijacks the movie. He changes the trajectory of the narrative with his commercial instincts. Like any filmmaker or screenwriter, the artist uses creative license to suit the needs of his vision, even if it's a hackneyed one. This is what "Adaptation" satirizes. Donald adds a little heat to "The Orchid Thief". A large segment of the moviegoing public will allow this detour into the "theater of the absurd" pass them by without comment. The famous author, a well-respected journalist, is one of the webmaster's topless models. With great expediency, the Kaufman brothers take a road trip to Florida. They learn that Susan indeed fell in love with the free-spirit adventurist, a plot point that would, no doubt, please the studio honchos. Donald, in essence, plays two characters, just like his older brother Charlie, inside and outside the diegesis; they're both onscreen characters and omniscient writers. "Adaptation", ultimately, is about how movies, once they're green-lit, makes it to the screen; the compromises you make for focus groups. Charlie is the screenwriter. Donald goes uncredited. But he's every bit as important as his older brother. This is how the younger Kaufman, the script doctor, fixes Charlie's third act. Finding the ghost orchid advances the plot. That's the major change Donald makes. Not finding the ghost orchid stops the movie dead in its tracks. John and Susan have no reason to stay together. The rewrite allows for a romance to blossom, like a ghost orchid. They hit the jackpot. The lovers on the lam shack up in their love nest after discovering hundreds of ghost orchids. The journalistauthor, a card-carrying member of the NYC intellegentsia, improbably turns into a drug fiend, sniffing this green powder that the Seminole tribesmen learned to extract from the flower. As John and Susan canoodle on a ratty old couch, the horticulturist discovers the peeping tom at his window. It's Susan's call. The screenwriter must die. Charlie will write an expose on her secret life and adapt it for the screen. Oh, wait. That's exactly what happened, and is happening, in real time. They head towards the swamp in separate vehicles. In Charlie's car, the journalist holds a gun at the driver's head. Donald Kaufman has turned "The Orchid Thief" into a taut psychological thriller. His older brother, an introvert, knows nothing about the human condition. Charlie would never that the lives of people could be this unpredictable; a well-adjusted woman, suddenly, become unhinged by circumstance.

This is where "Lucy in the Sky" draws its influence from: Susan Orlean's fictionalized character arc.

Donald, on the other hand, understands that love can sometimes drive you insane. Opposites, do sometimes attract. It doesn't happen only in the movies. Cut to the chase: LaRoche is ripped to shreds by hungry crocodiles in a misty swamp. Susan Orlean, the great Susan Orlean, inconsolable, holds her dead lover, screaming: "You fat!" at the man who adapted her book.

Something unexpected and uncanny happens during the third act of "Lucy in the Sky". Without warning, the film undergoes a dramatic shift in tone, bordering on the histrionic. The audience gets a rare chance of seeing a film, distributed by a major studio, turn inwards on itself; it's like a movie within a movie: "Lucy in the Supermarket". Iris can't be in two places at the same time. Lucy's niece, ultimately, makes the right choice, though, staying back in the car, where she can transfer the shotgun from the armrest console to her backpack. Meanwhile, the nonplussed checkout girl rings up duct tape, ropes, knives, insect repellent, and a blonde wig. Later, at the airport parking garage, policemen are alerted to the situation in progress and stop the jilted lover's murder plot. Once again. Lucy finds herself looking over earth, but this time, it's from a parking garage barrier, in which both gravity and the gravity of the moment(Mark loves Erin; the other woman, why! why! why!) could kill her.

Robert McKee(Brian Cox) is right. Charlie Kaufman knows nothing about real life. At his seminar, the screenwriting guru shouts: "You can't have a protagonist without desire! It doesn't make any sense!" The film critics, a consensus, so quick to pan "Lucy in the Sky", seems to have forgotten that, unlike the wild mood swings in "Adaptation", this really happened.

This isn't meta; this is "true crime".

"Nothing happens in the real world? Are you out out of your...mind?" McKee asks Charlie rhetorically, with vitriol.

Review by cappiethemortagemoneylendingdog from the Internet Movie Database.