One of three Johnny Depp movies released in 1999, The Astronaut’s Wife is definitely the weakest of the three and had me questioning my resolve to watch ALL the films Johnny Depp’s appeared in during his career.
The Astronaut’s Wife features Depp as Spencer Armacost the astronaut while Charlize Theron plays his wife Jillian. An explosion occurs while Spencer and a fellow astronaut are conducting a space walk to repair a satellite. The ground crew and their fellow crew mates lose contact with them for 2 minutes. They are retrieved and immediately returned to earth where they slowly come out of comas, but to their wives they are changed men. Dun, dun, duuun.
The directing and acting go for heavy handed including slow motion shots of glasses falling to the ground and shattering while people scream in the background and ominous dream sequences in which Jillian sees dead people. Oooh, the tension. As much as I like Theron and Depp as actors, the on-screen couple have about as much chemistry here as Angelina Jolie and her brother James kissing.
No wait, the siblings have more chemistry than Depp and Theron and that’s saying something.
Other than the central mystery of what happened during the blackout there is little driving the plot. We are continuously told by Jillian how much her husband has changed and how much he doesn’t sound like himself, but we are never shown enough of the pre-event Spencer to be able to make that connection ourself.
After Jillian becomes pregnant with twins, dun, dun, duuun things are supposed to become creepier (a la Rosemary’s Baby) but it never achieves that level of suspense for me. It plays like a drawn out episode of the X-Files, but without the redeeming forces of Agents Mulder and Scully to propel the plot and give us context.
The resolution of the plot is as heavy handed as the rest of the movie and would have had me fuming had I paid good money to see this in the theatre back in the day. Let’s face it Johnny Depp playing an asshole misses the whole point of his charm as an actor. There’s no redeeming this movie and I haven’t even started on how they play up Jillian’s history of mental health issues as a reason why no one is going to believe her alien conspiracies.
The movie faired poorly at the box office taking in less than $10 Million during its run making it one of Depp’s worst performing film given its $75 budget, and yes that includes The Lone Ranger.
Whew, thankful to have that one out of the way. Now I can move onto the third film from 1999 for Depp – Tim Burton’s Sleepy Hollow.