Natalie Portman astronaut drama Lucy in The Sky fails to achieve orbit

An astronaut (Natalie Portman) struggles to readjust to life back on Earth in Lucy in The Sky

Natalie Portman as astronaut Lucy Cola in Lucy in The Sky
Damon Smith

JOHN Lennon claimed that he was inspired by his three-year-old son Julian's drawing to take a psychedelic boat trip beneath marmalade skies with Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds.

"Look for the girl with the sun in her eyes," implores Lennon on lead vocals.

Director Noah Hawley respectfully follows orders and opens his earthbound drama loosely based on the true story of Nasa astronaut Lisa Nowak with the arresting image of Oscar winner Natalie Portman staring into the star at the centre of our solar system from the dreamy tranquillity of space.

Untroubled by gravity, she hovers like a spacesuit-clad angel, that blazing golden orb reflected in her constricted pupils.

Regrettably, when Portman returns to the third rock from the Sun, Hawley's picture crash-lands with her and staunchly refuses to regain altitude.

Lucy In The Sky is unable or unwilling to clearly communicate the inner turmoil of a cheating wife, who concocts a hare-brained kidnapping scheme when her lover dares to spurn her for another woman.

Burstyn scene-steals like a veteran as a straight-shooting grandmother but she cannot distract from bizarre directorial choices including a redundant scene of Jon Hamm's astronaut watching clips of the ill-fated 1986 launch of the Space Shuttle Challenger.

Portman plays Lucy Cola, who glimpses the twinkling lights of Earth from deep space and is forever changed.

"You go up there, see the universe, then come back home and it all looks so small," she rues, experiencing a crushing sense of disappointment back on terra firma with her mild-mannered husband Drew (Dan Stevens) and teenage daughter Blue Iris (Pearl Amanda Dickson).

Determined to earn her spot on the next space mission, Lucy throws herself into training under programme director Frank Paxton (Colman Domingo) and risks lasting damage to outperform younger rival Erin Eccles (Zazie Beetz).

Failure is not an option for Lucy, who has been inured to pain and self-doubt by her fragrant and potty-mouthed grandmother (Burstyn).

Alas, Lucy's mental state fractures and, impulsively, she seeks comfort in the arms of fellow astronaut Mark Goodwin (Hamm), who has a reputation as a ladies' man.

"He's a divorced action figure who likes to go fast," jokes unsuspecting cuckold Drew.

Lucy falls for Mark, jeopardising her marriage and her place on the next Nasa rocket.

When she learns that Mark has also taken a fancy to Erin, jealousy takes a vice-like grip of Lucy, propelling the enraged wife down a dangerous and violent path.

Lucy In The Sky appropriates The Beatles' song for one of its listless interludes as director Hawley forlornly attempts to dock with his heroine's emotions.

Portman doesn't connect the dots between starbursts of her adventurer's erratic behaviour, robbing us of the opportunity to feel a discomfiting sympathy for her she-devil.

Rating: 2 stars

LUCY IN THE SKY (15, 125 mins) Drama/Sci-Fi/Romance. Natalie Portman, Jon Hamm, Zazie Beetz, Dan Stevens, Pearl Amanda Dickson, Ellen Burstyn, Colman Domingo. Director: Noah Hawley.

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