STARRING: Johnny Depp, Charlize Theron, Joe Morton
1999, 110 Minutes, Directed by: Rand Ravich
Description:A pretty, young woman whose pretty, young astronaut husband comes back
from his most recent space mission a little... odd. Before that fated space
trip, Spencer (Johnny Depp) and Jillian (Charlize Theron) were a sunny,
happy couple with matching blonde hairdos and a predilection for romping in
the sack from extremely clever camera angles. However, after a
communications blackout brings Spencer and his partner back down to earth
prematurely, things are a little... peculiar.
If The Astronaut's Wife was an hour-long episode of the Outer Limits TV series it would have been okay-ish. However, with its flimsy premise stretched out to an almost two hour long feature film, it becomes an endurance test of sorts.
Flimsy? Well, not really. Back in the late-1960s director Roman Polanski used the same plot to generate a classic of paranoid filmmaking, namely Rosemary's Baby. The problem with Astronaut's Wife is that it plays more like a remake of Rosemary's Baby than anything else. (Theron even sports a short blonde haircut similar to that of Mia Farrow in said movie.) Or that is what the title character played by South African-born actress Charlize Theron believes of her astronaut husband (Johnny Depp).
Has the Depp character somehow been possessed by an alien? Or is she just being paranoid? In real life she would probably have sold her story to National Enquirer,
but instead she becomes pregnant. With twins. Always a distressing prospect, but the question is whether she
was impregnated by the character before or after his "possession" . . .
The answers supplied by Astronaut's Wife wouldn't exactly send you reeling. The movie is lots of set-up and very little pay-off, as the movie's climax and resolution would have formed in your mind in its broad strokes, if not downright specifics. Along the way the audience is subjected to the type of atmospheric "horror" that is very understated. In fact, it is so understated that it is almost non-existent.
The problem is that neither Theron nor Depp are up to their respective acting tasks. Depp is simply bland and about as threatening as a cuppasoup. Theron is passable, but (unlike Mia Farrow) she comes across as simply too level-headed to make audiences doubt whether she is unduly paranoid or not.
Even if you haven't seen Rosemary's Baby, chances are you'd still be squirming in your seats. Not from any discomfit generated by on-screen proceedings, but because of the film's unnecessarily long running time.
When its resolution finally comes around, there might be one or two mild surprises in store, depending on whether you have seen the likes of
Species, The Devil's Advocate and any Outer Limits TV episodes.
But the sad truth remains that the ending which must have struck the makers of
Astronaut's Wife as so clever wasn't really at all and I could think of at least one ending which would have come as more of a surprise . . .