A NASA astronaut (Thornton), forced to retire years earlier so he could save his family farm, has never given up his dream of space travel and looks to build his own rocket, despite the government's threats to stop him.
Texan Charles Farmer left the Air Force as a young man to save the family ranch when his dad died. Like most American ranchers, he owes his bank. Unlike most, he's an astrophysicist with a rocket in his barn - one he's built and wants to take into space. It's his dream. The FBI puts him under surveillance when he tries to buy rocket fuel; the FAA stalls him when he files a flight plan - it's post-9/11, after all. His wife is angry when she finds out their bank is initiating foreclosure. Charlie fears failure and decides, precipitously, to launch. Are twenty-first century American dreams just a sign of insanity? Are those who believe in dreamers only fools? Written by
During the filming in and around Santa Fe, New Mexico, Billy Bob Thornton did a "One stop promotion tour" as he put it, for both his album Hobo, and The Astronaut Farmer at the Santa Fe bookstore, Borders. See more »
A spacesuit requires external connections to a) supply air for breathing and cooling and b) remove carbon dioxide and excess heat. Thornton's character is shown wearing a spacesuit in many situations that would have resulted in both overheating (when he wasn't wearing the helmet), and suffocation (while wearing the helmet closed), since he had no portable air conditioning unit or other umbilicals connected. See more »
"If we don't have our dreams, we have nothing" Charles Farmer
How do you take an inherently interesting story about a former pilot and astronaut drop out, who launches himself into orbit, and make that story slow, dull, and corny? The Polish brothers (director, writers) achieve that state possibly because the modest $13 million budget is still much more than they ever had and their approach is too reverential to the hero, who by any standards pursues a quixotic goal of launching himself at the risk of jettisoning his family and close friends.
Charles Farmer (Billie Bob Thornton) is determined to achieve his goal in the face of losing his too well ordered and clean farm and his loving, dutiful, and way too accepting wife, Audrey (Virginia Madsen). Thornton, underplaying with that fetching drawl and highly-developed outsider persona, does a credible job of dreaming his impossible dream without appearing unstable or psychotic. Madsen, while always attractive, has such a clichéd part as the long-suffering mate that the character could appear to be even more unrealistic than her husband.
The two young daughters mug for the camera or make too much happy to be credible. Only two characters ring true all the time: Farmer's son, Shephard (Max Thierot), who is cool as a teen mission controller; and an uncredited Bruce Willis, who plays an ex-astronaut friend of Farmer trying to talk him out of a potentially disastrous launch. Everyone else is a caricature, as the film itself is almost a parody of the American dream: It relies on the American tradition of individualism, evenat the expense of those closest to the dreamer. That's an American tragedy.
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