Release Date: February 23rd, 2007 by Warner Bros. Pictures.
The Cast: Billy Bob Thornton, Virginia Madsen, Max Thieriot, Bruce Dern, Tim Blake Nelson, J.K. Simmons.
Directed by Michael Polish.
BASIC PREMISE: Charles Farmer (Thornton), a former NASA astronaut, follows his dream to build and launch a rocket from his family’s farm while the government tries to stop him.
ENTERTAINMENT VALUE: Don’t judge The Astronaut Farmer by its strange title and its even more bizarre poster, which evokes the absurdity of El Topo. Although predictable, it manages to be a consistently engaging and wholesome film. When Charlie decides to build and launch a rocket from his farmhouse, he puts his family at risk financially and socially. The government forbids him to follow this particular dream and does everything in its power to create obstacles for him. They hire two dim-witted FBI agents to be on the lookout for any suspicious activity. His son (Thierot) helps him out, but his wife (Madsen) feels hesitant at first given that everyone in town derides them and the bank has closed their account—of course, her credit card gets denied when she tries to buy groceries. Fortunately, Billy Bob Thornton gives a decent performance without overacting the role of Charlie. Virginia Madsen, who was stunning in Sideways, proves to be an exceptional actress once again. Co-writers Michael and Mark Polish (a.k.a. The Polish Brothers) wisely focus the film on the drama on Earth rather than on Charlie’s adventure in space. More scenes with Charlie interacting with his son would have been interesting, besides when he just takes him right out of school to work on the rocket and a dinner scene. The Polish Brothers add just the right amount comedy to the script without distracting from the drama, which does become forgivably contrived and implausible toward the end. It’s also worth mentioning the breathtaking shots during the brief scenes from outer space and the very appropriate use of Elton John’s song “Rocket Man” in the closing credits.
SPIRITUAL VALUE: It’s quite moving and uplifting to watch Charlie risk everything to follow his dreams despite the possibility of him losing everything including his own life during his pursuits. His wife feels hesitant to stick by him at first because she thinks he’s crazy, but eventually she supports him which proves that she truly loves him. INSULT TO YOUR INTELLIGENCE: None, as long as you suspend your disbelief.
NUMBER OF TIMES I CHECKED MY WATCH: 0
IN A NUTSHELL: A wholesome, uplifting and moving film.
RECOMMENDED WAY TO WATCH: Movie Theater
The "A" Menu