THE ASTRONAUT’S WIFE
US, 1999, 108 minutes, Colour.
Johnny Depp, Charlize Theron, Joe Morton, Clea Duvall, Donna Murphy, Nick Cassavetes, Samantha Eggar, Blair Brown, Tom Noonan.
Directed by Rand Ravich.
The Astronaut’s Wife sounds like a variation on Apollo 13. However, it is rather a variation on The Invasion of the Body Snatchers. This time the body snatching takes place in space where two astronauts lose contact with Earth for two minutes and return different.
The film has the atmosphere of Florida, Cape Canaveral and the fraternity of space exploration. The action then moves to New York City to a company which builds planes and is developing communication merely by thought processes. This is a background then to the life of the astronaut and his wife as they move to New York.
Charlize Theron is at the centre of the film, playing a variation on the tormented wife she played in The Devil’s Advocate. She was in the early years of her Hollywood career but within five years would have an Oscar for best actress for Monster. Johnny Depp gives a rather quiet performance until the final climaxes. Joe Morton is intense as a former NASA representative who understands what has gone on. There is a guest appearance by Samantha Eggar as a doctor.
When the astronaut’s wife is impregnated and finds she has twins, she begins to believe the truth about the alien takeover. The film builds up to a dramatic climax, especially with the wife considering whether she will give birth to the twins or not. The final moment has the usual variation on the horror film theme as the two children go to school and the mother seems to be possessed.
1.A 20th century thriller? Towards the millennium? With invasions by aliens? In the space program? The plausibility or not of the plot?
2.The Florida settings, space exploration? The contrast with New York, affluence? The musical score?
3.The title and its focus on Jillian? Her marriage, the information about her past and her being able to see dead people? Her support of her husband, love for him, concern about the space journey? The news of the loss of contact? Going with Natalie to the headquarters? Hospital, finding Spencer well? Continuing their life, her teaching and rapport with the children? Reading them fairy stories? Spencer honoured by the government? The meeting with Sherman Reese and her dislike of him? The head of the NASA program? The decision to go to New York, her saying goodbye to the students? Settling in in New York, her meeting with Shelley McLaren? and friendship after being snubbed by other women? Life in New York? The marriage? Spencer and his being busy? The party, her drinking, Spencer and his almost assault? Her pregnancy? Twins? Her concern? Sherman Reese coming to New York, her putting him off? The planned meeting, discovering Spencer meeting him? Her taking the video from the vault? Watching it, Reese and his explanations? Spencer finding her watching the video? Their watching the film? Her fears, conflict with Spencer? Consulting Shelley, the tablets for the miscarriage? About to take them, Spencer finding her? The struggle, her confronting him? The truth? Her getting the radio, prepared to electrocute herself as Natalie did? His confrontation, her electrocuting him? The aftermath, giving birth to the twins, her marrying again, the children going to school, their malevolent looks, her final look?
4.Spencer, the astronaut, the American hero, his love for his wife? The return, unwillingness to speak about the two minutes? Alex and his illness, at the party, his death? Spencer and his change of job, going to New York, with the McLarens? Late home, his rough assault on Jillian and her becoming pregnant? His ambiguous behaviour, going to meet Sherman Reese? Reese’s disappearance? The confrontation with Jillian, the tablets, the radio and the electrocution, his death?
5.Natalie, her bond with Jillian, her fears, Alex and his illness, his advances at the party, his death? The funeral, the wake, Natalie killing herself after telling Jillian about the radio waves? Sherman Reese’s later experience about the sounds and the waves?
6.Nan, her devotion to Jillian, coming to New York, giving the information to Spencer, the clash with Jillian?
7.The NASA director? The McLarens? and their ambitions? Shelley and her friendship?
8.The pregnancy, the doctor, the consultation, the two hearts?
9.Life in New York, seen from Jillian’s point of view, the continuing menace?
10.A satisfying horror film – a space exploration film using the conventions of the horror film?