Thursday, February 09, 2012

Johnny Kitties: Celebrating Johnny Depp Film #17--The Astronaut's Wife (1999)

[What is Johnny Kitties? See Johnny Kitties: Celebrating Johnny Depp for all the details.]

"Johnny's an alien!"
That's what my mom said as we left the theater after seeing The Astronaut's Wife. Here's the story: When Spencer Armacost: (Johnny Depp) and fellow astronaut Alex Streck (Nick Cassavetes) abort a shuttle mission after a 2-minute "incident" in space, their wives notice some peculiar changes in their personalities. Soon after their return, Spencer's wife Jillian (Charlize Theron) learns she's pregnant, which sparks her suspicions about her husband's motives, what really happened up there, and the future of their unborn twins.

"Huh. I wonder why Johnny made that movie."
That's what my dad said as we left the theater after seeing The Astronaut's Wife. I don't know all of Johnny's reasons, but he was fascinated with the idea of the all-American hero not being who he seemed to be. Never in a million years did I imagine Johnny playing an astronaut--Let alone one named Commander Spencer Armacost! A manmade boy with scissorhands didn't phase me, but an astronaut?

I admit, when people have asked me if there's any Johnny Movie that I don't like, this is the one that comes to mind. First, I was already annoyed before I saw the movie because critics everywhere were comparing it to Roman Polanski's classic creepy movie, Rosemary's Babyjust because Charlize Theron had a pixie haircut and became pregnant with babies not of this world. Critics also said that Johnny was unbelievable as a menacing bad guy. I do not agree with that. But, aside from having no stomach for scary movies anymore--no matter how predictable they may be--my main problem with this one was that I never liked Spencer Armacost, even before he became an alien trapped in a human body.

Usually, Johnny somehow finds ways to get you to like his bad-guy characters, so you're practically rooting for them by the end of the movie. And, he'll always interject funny moments that lighten the mood. This movie doesn't seem to have that, and this cocky Southerner never appealed to me. "It was fun to play a redneck, an all-American hero gone wrong," Johnny said. "What interested me was not the idea of some kind of 'being' possibly inhabiting his body. Whatever happened in space just allowed him to reveal who he really is. He's got this image of being an all-American guy, with bleached white teeth and sun-kissed hair, but he's an awful person." Okay, I don't feel so bad now.

This is the photo!
I've never forgotten Johnny's description of his hair--"sun-kissed." (Why, why do I remember these things?) I had a photo of Spencer Armacost on my wall for a while. He is a good-looking alien, at least.

Watching it recently for Johnny Kitties, I discovered that The Astronaut's Wife is actually not that bad. The acting is solid, and I really like director Rand Ravich's stylized shots with sharp graphic shapes and cool lighting. There's a good sense of atmosphere and the sets are all pretty visually interesting.

The Kitty From Another Planet
Aside from Johnny playing an astronaut with awesome hair, the other most exciting thing about this movie--to me--was Johnny's costar, Joe Morton. He's the brother from another planet! I don't remember much about The Brother From Another Planet from when I first saw it in the '80s but, ever since, my family has pointed Joe Morton out whenever they find him in his other movies, exclaiming, "Oh! It's the brother from another planet!" So, now, I can apply that to a Johnny Movie. It's the simple pleasures, right?

So, here's a scene featuring Joe Morton (B.J.) as Sherman Reese, a NASA representative who first uncovers the alien invasion and tries to warn Jillian (Lily) of his discovery. Here, she's on her way up from the New York subway to meet Mr. Reese to discuss it. But she's stopped abruptly when her husband shows up out of the blue. Mr. Reese leaves his bag on the stair railing for her to take, as he heads off to have coffee with the commander. Too bad Spencer snatches it up before she can grab it!(Yeah, this is the G-rated level of suspense I can typically take.)


What's next?
Johnny stays in suspense and takes it to France to work with Roman Polanski in The Ninth Gate.

(Image credits: Astronaut's Wife stills © New Line Cinema; Johnny Depp portrait courtesy of, © unknown; Illustration: © Melissa Connolly) 

No comments: