L & D were graced with the presence of our friend F. for the highly anticipated screening of Ad Astra. In this film Producer/Actor Brad Pitt plays an astronaut in a not so distant future who is on a once in a lifetime mission to Neptune.
Some great lines from F. included when he picked up on a direct quote from 2001: A Space Odyssey, who this film owes everything to. His line about there being “too many stars in this movie” — when Donald Sutherland shows up. And also his parting salvo, during the credits, which was, “It took two idiots to write this?”
The film also reminded me of some other recent filmic space junk, First Man, the biopic on Neil Armstrong starring Ryan Gosling. For a leading man or woman in Hollywood, an astronaut movie is par for the course. If you were an actor and owned a production company like Brad Pitt does, you would certainly put yourself in the drivers seat of a rocket to Neptune. It makes sense.
In terms of production value, Ad Astra is out of its mind. Technically and aesthetically, it is really a film that the filmmakers can be proud of. And it has a few memorable suspense and action sequences which I won’t spoil for you. Let’s just say there is a shoot out and a strange thing happens with monkeys. And Tommy Lee Jones. Actually, Tommy Lee Jones does laudable acting work here. He is one of those actors I love on the screen but would terrify me in real life. Like if I had to do anything with Tommy Lee Jones. Like if we were related and had Thanksgiving together, I would have to have a Xanax. Not because he is famous but because he is so intense. Can you imagine? Tommy Lee to L at the table: “Pass the candied yams.” I shudder. And forget about being anywhere near him on set. I would definitely not want to sit by him at lunch. But he would probably sit next to me and start asking me personal questions. This has happened to me during film shoots with celebs. Mostly it’s fine but you never know with intense, method actors. One second it’s, “Have you listened to any good music lately?” The next is, “Get out of my eyeline!!” I mean, rarely does that happen —but I wouldn’t trust him. Maybe he is just that good of an actor and he is actually the nicest guy you ever met. Maybe. So if you love Tommy Lee Jones, even though he, like Sutherland, is in a minor supporting role here, it’s a strong performance.
One thing about this film is that the plot is absolutely absurd. You have to suspend disbelief almost immediately. And the only way to understand this movie is through the cross references of psychology and Greek tragedy. As an Oedipal story. As an allegory. Ultimately, the grinding pace of this film, the self-reflectiveness and indulgence, bury it. I think if the filmmakers had stuck to a more traditional narrative structure, added just a little more humor and quickened the pace of the story, this could have been a much more engaging and thought provoking film. On the other hand, I’m sure Brad Pitt is satisfied and feels like he said what he needed to say about outer space, humanity and Dads. You could watch Ad Astra or perhaps better yet, launch a laser disc and watch 2001: A Space Odyssey again.