We begin The Astronaut’s Wife with an interesting premise. Spencer Armacost (Johnny Depp) has gone up into space on a mission to do something. His wife, Jillian (Charlize Theron), is a school teacher. He calls her from up in space, and it’s quite a sweet moment. But, you can’t have a Johnny Depp character in space for too long, so disaster strikes, an explosion happens, he loses contact with the shuttle, and winds up back down on Earth in a coma.
Spencer had another man go up with him, although he’s not long for this film. He, and his wife, both die within a ten minute span. We’re told he died of a stroke, while she commits suicide via electrocution by sitting in a shower and bringing a radio with her. Spencer doesn’t spend a long time in this coma, because, well, he’s played by Johnny Depp and you’re wasting him if you just have him lie on a table for most of the film. He seems to be okay after leaving the hospital, but as the posters and trailers want you to wonder: Is he really the same?
A NASA representative named Sherman Reese (Joe Morton) isn’t so sure. He disappears for far too much of the film to really make an impact. He appears at the beginning, and we think that he’ll have a large role. That isn’t the cast, though, as he decides that he’ll only show up a couple of times after the plot really gets going, which doesn’t work as well as it might have if he had always maintained a presence. The Astronaut’s Wife ends up being a two person show (I suppose Clea DuVall shows up enough to be considered an important character as well, but really, her character serves no purpose).
We’re supposed to relate with Jillian, and we’re supposed to think something is wrong with Spencer. Or at least, that’s what I think The Astronaut’s Wife wanted me to feel. What really happened during those two minutes when the astronauts lost contact with everyone? We hear a tape recording that makes it sound like there was something, but Spencer doesn’t want to talk about it. And it’s not like he’s doing anything wrong or acting any differently.
A “twist” occurs at the end, which I almost guarantee you’ll see coming. It’s probably the easiest twist you could have in this type of film, and calling it a “twist” is being generous, because it’s alluded to throughout the entire film and will fail to surprise. The ending also came across as silly for me, and made me laugh instead of whatever it was trying to do.
Although I suppose the word “silly” goes hand-in-hand with the rest of the film, especially in the writing. A lot of the scenes have cringe-worthy dialogue exchanges. I actually had to shake my head that some of these words came out of these actors mouths, just because of how terrible they sound. The writing in this film is brutal, and I only wished that the script would have undergone some changes before production.
Eventually, the couple moves to New York. Spencer has decided never to go back into space, and has miraculously been offered an executive position at some company. There, he’s designing a plane which could be used in war, but only by sending out sounds, not bombs. New York, it appears, isn’t a place where mentally unsound people should live, as it makes Jillian really suspicious of everyone. The soundtrack starts getting jumpy, too.
This is a film that easily could have been exciting. There were parts that worked. Very few parts, most of which only worked for a small portion of their screentime, but parts nonetheless. The problem, I think, comes from the overall idea, and the way it was executed. The “twist” would have worked better if it was put out in the open earlier, for example, and then we would have been able to explore what it means for the characters. We’d understand certain decisions they make, and we’d be able to comprehend their reasoning behind everything that has earlier happened.
But that’s not what happened. We’re given a vague epilogue that will make you go “huh?” before we fade to black. There’s something to be said about ambiguous endings, but that’s not what this is. Instead, we don’t understand why certain things just unfolded, and now we’re just left confused and unsatisfied — the worst kind of ending.
Despite the terrible dialogue, the two lead actors actually do quite a good job. I felt sorry for them at times because of what they had to say, but apart from a couple of somewhat awkward scenes, they were strong. Depp was quite creepy as the husband we’re not supposed to be completely okay with, and Theron is strong as someone creeped out — even if she doesn’t have a real reason to be that way.
The Astronaut’s Wife isn’t a particularly good film. It didn’t keep me entertained, it didn’t make a lot of sense (I kept asking “Why are they acting this way?”), and the twist was poorly executed. The dialogue made me cringe, even coming from the likes of Johnny Depp and Charlize Theron, and I had to wonder why I was supposed to care about anything that was going on. There was no answer for me, and I don’t think this is a film that many people are going to enjoy.