The Astronaut Farmer (2007)
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Mark Polish, Michael Polish
Billy Bob Thornton, Virginia Madsen, Max Thieriot, Bruce Dern, Mark Polish, Jon Gries, Tim Blake Nelson, Sal Lopez, J.K. Simmons, Kiersten Warren, Rick Overton, Richard Edson, Jay Leno, Bruce Willis, Elise Eberle, Jasper Polish, Logan Polish
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|Movie Review by Matthew |
March 12th, 2007
Let's take a quick look at a couple of key elements of the new film "The Astronaut Farmer", starring Billy Bob Thornton, Virginia Madsen, Bruce Dern and Tim Blake Nelson.
Charles Farmer (Thornton) and his family live on a farm in a small town called Story, Texas. Farmer has dreamed of traveling into space and now uses the family's large barn to build a spaceship called The Dreamer. He has managed to convince his wife, Audie (Madsen) that he can do this. His son, Shepherd (Max Thierot) helps him build the spaceship and will presumably run mission control. Their two younger daughters are basically the cheering section and provide Farmer with a reason to live the dream.
Okay, so right away, "The Astronaut Farmer" has various telltale signs of a fantasy film or a tall tale. Charles Farmer, a farmer, lives in Story, Texas and builds a spaceship called The Dreamer. Clearly, "The Astronaut Farmer" is not a true story, a story based in reality. It is a fable, a story of dreamers, of hope. And a darned good example of this, a very good film for every one of all ages. Please go and see this film. It needs your support.
Written and directed by the Polish Brothers, Mark and Michael ("Twin Falls, Idaho", "Northfork"), you can see influences from each of their previous films in this new title. "Twin Falls" told the story of conjoined twins, played by the Polish Brothers, who fall in love with the same woman. A strange, but interesting film telling a unique story. "Farmer" has strange, but interesting elements combined into a very personal, almost beautiful story about a family pulling together to fulfill their dreams.
This strange film is surprisingly moving and effective. As soon as we meet Farmer, we realize he is a man with a dream, a dream he has spent years trying to achieve. The rocket is both a metaphor and a tangible result of this dream. He wouldn't have been able to do this without the support of his family; his wife, Audie works a day job at the local diner to earn money trying to keep the family afloat, his teenage son, Shep, clearly idolizes his father and is just as committed to the dream, and their two daughters run around, the younger girl mimicking everything her older sister says. This is a tightly knit family working towards a crazy, maybe unbelievable goal. But Farmer's enthusiasm makes it real, and the filmmakers allow us to join the story near the completion of the space ship. We see that he is almost done with the craft, making it a tangible thing. Because we see it, we are more apt to believe it. And Farmer is such a forceful personality; he makes us believe he can build a spaceship after years of studying. He is so forceful in his enthusiasm we don't even question where or how he got all of the equipment or the money he needed to construct the vehicle. At one point, he tries to buy some fuel and finds out it will cost $50,000. He goes to the bank to get a loan on the farm, but they won't loan him any more money.
The filmmakers smartly include a bit of reality into the story. Farmer receives a notice from the bank and meets with the bank president. The town is so small, there is one bank and Farmer and the president know each other. We learn Farmer inherited a lot of debt from his dad and struggles to make the payments. It doesn't help the future astronaut spends most of his time and money on the craft, bringing in little (if any) revenue from the farm. They are seriously behind and may lose the family home. This sets up a 'ticking clock' for Farmer. He soon realizes he has to launch the spaceship before the bank has a chance to foreclose. As soon as he launches, everything will be all right. He has no doubt. Once he achieves his dream, everything will be all better. And, if Farmer has a dream, his feelings are so infectious we share the dream.
"Farmer" also stays true to the landscape, rural Texas, and shows the flat, dusty, sun beaten landscape in a beautiful, unique way, much like "Northfork", about a rural town preparing for an inevitable flood, to provide a new municipal water source. Story is a small town and all of the inhabitants have lived there forever, everyone knows one another and the businesses and buildings have seen better days. When Charlie is ordered to get a psychiatric review, he is sent to the school nurse (Julie White), a former girlfriend who holds a grudge. When the U.S. Government holds an inquiry, it takes over the school auditorium.
As soon as Farmer's dreams start to penetrate, and the date of the launch draws near, everyone posts banners and signs proclaiming Charlie Farmer is an inhabitant of the town, they are proud of their native son, Charlie eats here. When the news media arrives, they camp out at the Farmer farm, a beautiful homestead on a lake, with a large barn. At one point, Farmer stands on a small
It won't fit. Please read the full review at thornhillatthemovies.com
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