The Astronaut Farmer
Rated PG; Directed by Michael Polish; Starring Billy Bob Thornton, Virginia Madsen, Bruce Dern, Max Thieriot
There is a genre in film that can cause a diabetic coma. It is the gooey-sweet movie about somebody going after their dreams. The Astronaut Farmer had all the signs of being one of these movies that makes a cynic roll their eyes in disgust. Surprise! The Astronaut Farmer manages to keep the sugar level at a minimum, while offering a pleasant film that stretches our credulity.
Charles Farmer (Billy Bob Thornton) has built a rocket ship in his barn. Unbelievable, huh? Well, Farmer has the knowledge and experience to do so and he can’t let go of his dream of going into space. His wife Audie (Virginia Madsen), his two little girls, and his teenage son, Shepard (Max Thieriot), support him in fulfilling his dream. Unfortunately, the dream costs money and the movie veers into the usual “you’re going to lose your house if you don’t give up your dream” territory. And yet, even with this traditional plot point, the script manages to come up with new ideas. Will Farmer fail or succeed? Can the government stop Farmer? Should Farmer be stopped? This movie at least makes the journey interesting.
Thornton plays Farmer with an understated charm and makes Farmer’s dream believable, which isn’t easy. Madsen is fine as the supportive wife. The little girls are cute and rather unscripted, while Thieriot makes a likable son, who dreams just as hard as his father.
So, if you expected something gooey and bad for your health, think again. The Astronaut Farmer has substance. Though not perfect, it is a movie that you can enjoy with the family.