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ASTRONAUT'S WIFE

SYNOPSIS:
During a space shuttle mission to repair a faulty satellite U.S. astronauts Spencer Armacost (Johnny Depp) and Alex Streck (Nick Cassavetes) lose contact with mission control for two minutes following an explosion. After returning to earth in a comatose state both men revive but seem strangely changed. Although living happily with wife Jillian (Charlize Theron) in Florida, Spencer decides to retire from flying and takes up an executive position with an aerospace firm in New York. Now pregnant with twins and troubled by her husband's personality change, Jillian is approached by former NASA official Reece (Joe Morton) who confirms her fears that during Spencer's lost two minutes a dangerous transformation has taken place.

"The Astronaut's Wife is a frustrating experience which continually builds tension which fails to go anywhere. 'Rosemary's Baby in outer space' set-up is intriguing and there's sufficient suspense to carry it to the half-way point but precious little expansion on the idea. Any movie in which a husband's suddenly odd behaviour is followed by his wife's pregnancy means only one thing: something awful is about to happen. We're owed more than the half-baked climax served up by writer/director Rand Ravich who convinces us we're in for fireworks which sadly never eventuate. Depp and Theron, well cast as a sexy young couple, do their best with limited opportunities, with Theron qualifying for the Mia Farrow hall of fame during her hysterical "what's happening to me and my babies" scenes. Depp doesn't have much more to do than practice his southern drawl and look menacing, which grows tiresome after a while. The Astronaut's Wife has plenty of attractive elements, including Allen Daviau's cinematography, George S. Clinton's music and Jan Roelf's production design (check out that New York apartment Depp and Theron move in to); unfortunately it just doesn't get there. An "opening and closing this week" feel aura hovers over this release which it doesn't deserve - and with these ingredients, it should have been much better."
Richard Kuipers

"Two very beautiful movie stars re-enact the plot of Rosemaryís Baby in some very expensive-looking sets. Charlize Theron plays the most glamorous primary-school teacher in the world; Johnny Depp is her equally spiffy husband. A lot of time is spent demonstrating that this couple, despite their enormous wealth, are just plain folks. Clea Duvall, as Jillianís wisecracking sister, is the closest thing to a real human being in sight, and virtually steals the film. Writer-director Rand Ravich doesnít bother to disguise his sources (even Theronís cropped hairstyle is stolen from Mia Farrow) but his sense of style is interestingly technological: he spins the camera round at high speed, briefly throws the action into fast motion, and does some semi-subliminal things with sound to literalise the idea of the Ďaliení as beyond the limits of human perception. Despite these flourishes, this sci-fi thriller is oddly low-key and attenuated: certain important mysteries Ė notably, to do with the weapons project Spencer is working on Ė are never resolved outright. This could be subtlety, or just plain incoherence (reportedly neither the director nor the stars were pleased with the studioís final cut). The biggest liability is Theron, a limited actress who never shakes off her elegant supermodel langour. As for Depp, after years of playing eccentric, cerebral characters, he gets to swagger round, show off his muscles and display some physical menace. Itís ironic that he was probably hired in the first place because of his recessive, otherworldly screen persona. Either way, he gives another mannered, skew-whiff performance, and mimics his characterís hick attributes Ė the Southern drawl and jock sense of humor Ė with a dandyish flair. Heís not very believable, but no-one looks better in sunglasses and a black trenchcoat."
Jake Wilson

"The Astronautís Wife is one of the yearís most frustrating movies. While watching it, I was enthralled by director Rand Ravichís beautifully constructed and subtly told tale of insidious, creeping terror. In fact, for seven-eighths of its length, the film is an object lesson in building tension in the Hitchcock mould. But itís let down with a crash by a rather silly heavy-handed climax and a pat ending. So disappointing. Still, thereís a lot to enjoy in this contemporary and stylish sci-fi thriller. Part Invasion of the Body Snatchers, part Rebecca, the film features some powerful, intriguing and involving scenes. Until the ending, Spencerís secret is successfully kept from both Jillian and us. The mixture of this secrecy and the filmís wonderful use of lighting, production design and music build an authentically eerie atmosphere. Another big plus for The Astronautís Wife is a strong performance by Charlize Theron. Looking like a young Sharon Stone, she could be an Oscar contender if she can land meatier projects. Johnny Depp is fine as her creepy husband, but he suffers from having little to do but look menacing. Of the supporting cast, Joe Morton and Donna Murphy are both good, although they too, have little to do. Keep an eye out for two actor/directors, Nick Cassavetes and Tom Noonan, in cameo roles. The Astronautís Wife shows a lot of style and promise, but is cruelly let down at the final hurdle."
David Edwards

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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 0
Unfavourable: 0
Mixed: 3

SOFCOM MOVIE TIMES

ASTRONAUT'S WIFE (MA)
(US)

CAST: Johnny Depp, Charlize Theron, Joe Morton, Clea DuVall, Donna Murphy, Nick Cassavetes, Samantha Eggar

DIRECTOR: Rand Ravich

PRODUCER: Andrew Lazar

SCRIPT: Rand Ravich

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Alan Daviau

EDITOR: George S. Clinton, Timothy Alverson

MUSIC: Steve Mirkovich

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Jan Roelfs

RUNNING TIME: 109 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Roadshow

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: November 4, 1999







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