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
An astonishing film, easily one of the year's best
It's clear a lot of critics don't know what to make of this movie. It's best described as mostly a fantasy with naturalistic elements. The emotions are real, they are strong, and the film is always grounded in the earth. But you are never quite sure where it is going. It will veer into farce, then melodrama, then social commentary, and back again. It seems to be taking place in the present day, yet not quite: the sensibilities are from the 60s, the entrepreneurial we-can-do-it spirit from the 80s, and the despair from the 00s. It is strange, and it is dreamlike, and at times it seems to barely make sense, but it all works. The audience I was with was enthralled and almost all of them stayed through the end of the credits -- a good sign indeed.
I can imagine what the high-concept presentation must have been like: "It's just your typical save-the-farm family drama, only dad is a . . ."
"Don't tell me. A space alien," yawns the studio-head.
"Well, close, but not quite. He's a former astronaut who may be a nut case, we're never quite sure."
The studio-head is a little more interested. "And he;s planning to blow up the world?"
"No, though a lot of people think he is."
The head of the studio thinks about. "I think I like it. Throw in some cute kids and we've got ourselves a movie."
I'm being cynical, of course, and this is not a cynical movie. There is not a false note in it in fact, the music is perfect, the cinematography is first-rate, the casting is superb (watch for Bruce Dern looking very similar to Doc Brown in the Back to the Future movies). While inspirational, follow your dream movies usually don't work for me, this one does, it has such an amazingly goofy charm that only the stiffest of film critics could resist it (and alas, according to that well-known movie review site, as I write this just under 40% don't get it.) If this movie in not on most 10-best lists at year-end, it is going to be one heck of a year.
I don't know if the film is going to do well. Early box office looks weak, but word- of-mouth may help. See it in a theater now if you are at all hesitant. This one will be remembered.
One final note: something like this story could actually happen in a generation or two, assuming humanity doesn't destroy itself. That spaceship-in-the-barn tale will make a great movie when it does. This story makes a great movie now.
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