If it weren’t for the spectacularly corny musical score, Astronaut Farmer would probably be a bigger hit. Instead, everytime a dramatic sequence or something of note occurs, we are treated to the cheesiest, cliche-est, overly sentimental, Kevin Costner-ish* , background music ever.
It’s not the worst though. That award, has to go to Jerry Bruckheimer’s creations, like The Rock, Con-Air, Glory Road, and countless others. If you wanna know what I’m talking about, he’s also executive producer of the fast – paced, constant music in your ear The Amazing Race. It works for a 30 minute show, but in a movie where a story has to be told you’ll start feeling as if it’s all just hackneyed camera trickery to fill up space. And besides, after 1.5 hours of blaring music with cut scenes one after the other it becomes unbearable. I’ve become so familiar with this style I’ve correctly identified his tv shows and movies from listening to the musical arrangement of the teasers.
At any rate I hate music that tells you when to start feeling sad or elated. That sort of stuff belongs in telenovelas like when ‘sad’ music is cued when the hero is faced with bad luck. It’s as if we’re being told that, at this point, to start crying, because we’re not capable of deciding this ourselves. Astronaut Farmer has a great deal going for it, but the music telling me what to do completely ruins the moment.
The irony is that Billy Bob Thornton is a master of understatement, whose face says far more than a hundred actors screaming away. Virginia Madsen is the perfect cast for the beautiful, long suffering wife of a dreamer, and her constant smiles play an integral part of how her character’s presence brings balance to Thornton’s pursuit of his dream and his family’s grappling with their situation.
The music (yes I can’t let go of how I hate the music) would have made this a strictly straight to HBO movie, but Thornton’s and Madsen’s performances are what makes this the story of hope that it is.
On a personal note, it’s a movie that speaks directly to me and how I lead my own life, pursuing dreams that, romantic as they may seem, have left indelible marks on my person. Thornton’s character, Farmer, is bent on pursuing ambitious dreams but at the same time has to reconcile its effect on his family, whose well being he thankfully never loses sight of.
In retrospect, I have lived my own life following my own rules while pursuing my own dreams, and intentionally or not I had to face my own challenges and faced my own set of naysayers, fully intent on righting what in their minds is a wrongful application of what they panderingly assure me are rare, God given gifts. Usually by way of describing ‘what they’d do if they could do what I could’, or ‘how easy it’d be for me to find employment abroad’, they find solace in the fact they are prescribing a life, in their eyes, more fruitful, without considering, quite conveniently, the joy I gain from what I do.
This, without even reference to family, or the difficulties in daily toil, is already considerable challenge. But forge on I do, probably because like Thornton’s character, it only provides fodder for making doubly sure that I will succeed, if only because everyone else thinks I won’t.
The predictable, HBO – ish ending does come, and at this point you’ll realize that at the end of the day, Astronaut Farmer is a tall tale. Sure it’s possible, but highly improbable. My dreams, compared to Farmer’s are infinitesimally small, and Farmer’s success is uneven, somewhat hurried as if to bring conclusion, even unlikely.
I don’t necessarily find inspiration in this movie, inspite of the fact that like the main character, I am also a dreamer. The concluding scenes are, and yes I pun, out of this world. The only thing I take from it is some recognition of a familiar character at the time he was trying to make things work. As for the success, I haven’t gotten there yet, so I wouldn’t know.
So sticking to what I do know which is the movie per se, I’d give it a 6 out of 10. It’d probably be an 8 out of 10, if it weren’t for the – make a wild guess what that is. They even played Rocket Man at the end. I caught myself, at some point watching, wishing they wouldn’t be so predictable, but no. One of my most favorite songs of all time, almost ruined if I hadn’t turned the DVD player off fast enough.
* – yes I often correlate cornyness to Kevin Costner. To me, he’s the American equivalent of April Boy.