The Astronaut's Wife

Johnny Depp is astronaut Spencer Armacost and Charlize Theron is his wife Jillian, in the appropriately titled The Astronaut's Wife. Depp and fellow astronaut Alex Streck (Nick Cassavetes) are working on a satellite in orbit when the fall out of communication for two minutes. When communication is reestablished, they are immediately brought back to Earth. A battery of tests on Armacost and Streck show that nothing is wrong with them. However, Streck then quits his job with NASA and joins an aerospace firm in New York as an executive. Then, Streck dies, and his wife Natalie (Donna Murphy) manages to relay her strange suspicions about those missing two minutes to Jillian before she dies. Jillian is worried, but not yet suspicious. She moves to New York with Spencer, and they begin their new life together. As time moves on, Jillian begins to notice subtle differences in her husband. Many little things seem to be not quite right, and as they begin to compound, her suspicion grows. When Sherman Reese (Joe Morton), an ex-NASA employee shows up with his own theories, Jillian is certain something is not right. Plus, she is now pregnant with twins.

If the movie sounds familiar, it is because it is. The Astronaut's Wife seems to be an amalgam of many previous thrillers before it. Writer/director Rand Ravich is the man behind the short film Oink, and wrote, of all things, Candyman: Farewell to the Flesh. Some of the same b-movie plot conventions found in the latter are found again here in Astronaut's Wife. For the majority of the movie, Ravich wants us to believe that everything going on may just be part of Jillian's imagination. Ravich tries to throw everyone off by revealing that Jillian once was hospitalized for having visions of people she knew dead. Unfortunately, the audience knows much better. So you know the outcome of many of the twists in the plot before they actually happen. The story moves slowly as Jillian becomes more and more paranoid, leading up to the conclusion, which is a big let down.

Aside from the writing, Ravich did a good job directing. The moody lighting and smooth camera shots lend a creepy aura to the movie, which the plot then proceeds to shatter. Depp (Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and the upcoming Sleepy Hollow) and Morton (Blues Brothers 2000) do what they can with familiar, one-dimensional roles. Theron (Celebrity, Mighty Joe Young) continues to diversify herself in the roles that she chooses. Each additional role she takes on shows her growth as an actor. The role of Jillian is very similar to her role in The Devil's Advocate, where she was also the innocent wife who lived with her husband in the South before moving to New York City and witnessing a dramatic change. This time her character takes control of what is happening around her and tries to prevent anything further from happening. It's just a matter of time before Theron and Depp, both underrated, get their proper recognition as actors in Hollywood.

Haro Rates It: Okay.
1 hour, 50 minutes, Rated R for violence, language, and a scene of strong sexuality.

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