Film Review: ASTRONAUT (USA 2019)

Astronaut Poster

A lonely widower battles his family, ill health and time to win a competition for a golden ticket to space.


Shelagh McLeod

ASTRONAUT belongs to the genre of old-fart films where the protagonist is a senior and has to come to terms with age and usually makes good, be it in romance or achieving ones final goal in life.  Thankfully, it is the latter.

The protagonist is 75-year old widower Angus (Richard Dreyfuss) who lives with his daughter’s family.  His son-in-law, Jim (Lyriq Bent) convinces the daughter, Molly (Krista Bridges) to move Angus into a retirement home.   His life seems over; he feels worthless and alone.  But Angus’s long extinguished dream is reignited when an exciting national competition is announced.  The prize is one golden ticket for a trip to space!   Way past the age limit at 65, he doesn’t have a chance.  But spurred on by his grandson, Barney (Richie Lawrence) Angus fudges his birthdate, and enters the competition.  Against all odds, he must battle against prejudice, ill health, and win the contest.  Angus discovers too that the rocket is not safe, being a civil engineer.  A subplot requires him to tell the organizers of the problem but no one would believe an old man.

The film’s best parts is surprisingly nothing to do with his space trip.  It is his realization that he has to move and adapt into a retirement home.  From the looks of the home, it is quite attractive, spacious and grand and I doubt that anyone including myself (when I am old, of course) would mind staying there.  One feels for Angus.

The film features a mixed raced family, husband (African American) and wife (white), something much more common in films these days.

The film’s subplot concerns Angus Stewart’s family. The son-in-law has loses his job for standing up for his principles.

ASTRONAUT is in part another Richard Dreyfuss vehicle.  For those who remember, Dreyfuss won an Academy Award for his role in THE GOODBYE GIRL primarily for the scene where he made audiences cry when he played an actor realizing in his dressing room how bad his performance was as a crippled Hamlet.   Dreyfuss plays a senior inches in ASTRONAUT and it was not that long ago when audiences saw him as a teen in AMERICAN GRAFFITI and in the other space film, Steven Spielberg’s CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND.  

The other performance worthy of mention belongs to Native Canadian (born on the Six Nation Reserve in Ontario, Canada) Graham Greene (best remembered in THUNDERHEART) who plays  a fellow resident  of the retirement home.  He is to given much to say but still makes a screen presence.

ASTRONAUT is McLeod’s first feature and it shows.  The film meanders from being a family conflict drama and a space adventure while not satisfying either.  The one thing going for the film is Dreyfuss’ performance.  Dreyfuss had at one time turned into the most annoying actor on the planet, but his controlled acting here shows the actor this best when he was in films like JAWS, CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND, THE GOODBYE GIRL and THE BIG FIX.

The film has a odd tacked on sort-of happy ending that could have been better though of.



Film Review: NAPPILY EVER AFTER (USA 2018)

Nappily Ever After Poster

Violet Jones tired of waiting for her longtime boyfriend to propose, breaks up with him. But old feelings, and heaps of jealousy, no doubt, arise when he promptly begins dating another woman.

NAPPILY EVER AFTER is a romantic comedy involving  hair.  The titles that divide the film tell the different stages of the main character life as she changes her hair – for example from straight to weave to blonde and even to bald when the female protagonist hysterically shaves her head in despair on being ditched by her man.

There are good and bad things about this Netflix original romantic comedy.  The writers are quick to have hair as a niche in the story.  Anything and everything that concern hair is in. 

When Violet was a little girl, Violet was always hair-perfect, as dictated by her mother.  Where other kids could get dirty and not comb their hair, Violet had to get her hair done by her mother and kept that way throughout the rest of the day or till mother grooms her hair again.  When Violet grows up, she is still 100% concerned that she must look good with her hair.  She insists that she has her hair done just right for her birthday when she expects to be proposed to by her boyfriend, Clint of two years.  Violet depicts that kind of girl (black or any other race for that matter).  The story therefore can connect with a large part of the audience, the target audience obviously being female between the ages of 20 and 40), who are largely concerned about getting married and bear children (unless they are too career oriented or non-breeders).  The bad thing about the rom-com is that it is full of cliches. 

There is one contradicting scene set at a sports bar in the middle of the film when Violet sits with her two friends and discuss beer commercials.  They complain that beer commercials are so sexist as they are always geared towards men.  Yet when they see the men cheer a game on the TV screen drinking beer, they claim it to be latent homosexuality.  This is clearly selected minority prejudice.

The one annoying thing about this film is its insistence on making hair an all important factor into the story.  Hair, here used as a metaphor for vanity is too obvious.  The climatic scene ends with a song about hair.

It is midway through the film that Violet encounters group therapy.  She tells the group that she shaved off her hair to be bald after her boyfriend failed to propose to her.  This problem  is minuscule compared to the other problems of the group who suffer worst of life’s problems like cancer.  The film also puts a great deal about its subject shaving off their hair.  It is quite commonplace right now with many celebrities like Grace Jones sporting the look.  In fact, I would say I would see at least two ladies sporting that look at my gym, on average.

Violet comes across as a character, spoilt, not getting what she wants, then getting really annoying when doing what she can.  As a result, not everyone in the audience might be rooting for this annoying character which might pose a problem for the film.

As is what would be expected, director Al-mansour steers her film towards an overdone Hollywood rom-com ending – cliched as the film already is.  But what is unforgivable is the film’s preaching at the end about women of colour embracing their natural beauty. Ugh!