Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Astronaut Farmer

I wanted to see Astronaut Farmer while it was in the theaters. Somehow, I managed to miss it, which is unusual considering I see at least one movie per week at the theater (I took in two last weekend). I'm not a huge fan of Billy Bob Thornton, some of his roles just don't impress me. However, I thought this was one of his best movies. The concept of a private citizen obsessed with space flight to the point of (literally) mortgaging the farm provides an excellent opportunity to examine the interpersonal relationships of family and the effects of outside pressures on the family. This movie ventured into new territory, which I enjoyed. It's always nice to get something fresh out of Hollywood.

This movie was written by Mark and Michael Polish. They have written and directed a couple of movies that I am unfamiliar with. I am going to put them on my "to-do list" based on the success of this movie. I thought the dialogue was believable and sincere and the plot well thought out. The characters were well developed and I found that I cared about this experiment in ingenuity and determination. I wasn't really sure where this movie was going after a failed launch followed by an opportunity for financial stability. There was a telling moment at the bank, an exchange between the Astronaut Farmer's wife and the Banker when you realize the movie is going another direction. The pace was smooth allowing events to unfold in a manner that creates a little bit of suspense. I thought the writing was brilliant.

Billy Bob Thornton has had some forgettable performances. He has also had some amazing ones (Slingblade comes to mind). In this movie, I felt Thornton was at his best. He was believable as a determined, if not slightly deranged, former Air Force Pilot. He sold the role and convinced me to believe a rather tall tale. Virgina Madsen plays Thornton's wife, delivering an awesome performance. She had to convince us that she would allow her children to stop going to school, allow her husband to mortgage everything they have, and still stand behind him. The strength of her acting helped sell this otherwise tough concept. Max Theriot played a great supporting role as Thornton's son in the movie. Too bad he followed up such a strong role with a minor role in the mediocre Jumper which was recently released. Bruce Willis had a bit role in this movie and didn't really have an effect on the overall story telling. The rest of the cast were strong in supporting roles leading to a story that I was able to follow without completely feeling like I was giving up my ability to reason.

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