A solid romcom that has plenty of oxygen.
Kyra Sedgwick’s movie directorial debut of “Space Oddity” is no biopic or doc about the classic David Bowie song (although Brandi Carlile sings a cover version of it), but it is a small time romcom that expresses some important themes about life. There’s a space program where people can choose to leave Earth behind them and start life anew on Mars. Obvious reasons include pollution and violence, but the main character Alex McAllister (Kyle Allen) wants to take the one-way trip, because of he blames himself for his brother’s death, and these two have shared their fascinations for the stars.
At a Q&A of this movie, Sedgwick explains how she wanted to express her directorial debut with a merging of comedy and pathos, and how the main themes can simplify them. I didn’t laugh very hard, but I did find some smiles in its tone and humor. The love story is not that complex or original, but it is sweet and charming on its own terms. And it does offer some tears from time to time.
The love story consists of Alex wanting life insurance for his mission to Mars (pun intended), although the young agent Daisy (Alexandra Shipp) doesn’t see how that would be possible, since nobody has really asked for life insurance in space and since the mission may or may not be an exaggeration. He’s on an isolation program, where he can’t use cellphones, develops space equipment and lives on his family flower farm. His older sister (Madeline Brewer from “The Handmaid’s Tale”) thinks he’s crazy, while his parents (Kevin Bacon and Carrie Preston) try to convince him to stay here on Earth. The old man is even planning to pass the farm down to him, but Alex still tells him he’s leaving.
People have always been saying we need a backup plan for when Earth becomes unsustainable, and maybe the back plan will happen, maybe not. After all, I won’t be around for centuries to see it happen. But I was hoping this kid would stay here on Earth, because if it’s a one way trip with no return home, how can anyone leave their family behind? Maybe this would-be mission is a comfort blanket for him. Maybe it’s an excuse to run away from his tragic past. But even in humanity’s nightmares, there can still be joy inside.
I have my reservations about “Space Oddity,” but I can tell when the movie wants to be sweet and charming. I liked the performances from Allen, Shipp, and Bacon, while others like Simon Helberg (as a Russian farmhand) and Alfre Woodard (as a doctor) are overqualified. And I was able to find myself liking the characters for their emotions and versatilities.
She’s directed episodes for shows like “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” and “City on the Hill” (which also starred her husband Bacon), Sedgwick does a nice job directing a film. During the Q&A, I asked her how directing a film is different from directing an episode. And she responded how in a movie, she gets to pick the actors and story to bring to life. She was more committed to the answer than I am.
“Space Oddity” doesn’t completely reach for the stars, but it does have enough oxygen and life for us to see what these characters are going through and how they can overcome their drama.
In Select Theaters and Streaming on VOD