The Astronaut Farmer
Billy Bob Thornton, Virginia Madsen, Bruce Willis, Bruce Dern, Tim Blake Nelson
Astronaut Farmer, The
Old-fashioned American movie optimism collides with the grim realities of a post-Sept. 11 world in The Astronaut Farmer
, a space Western/social commentary that marks an unpredictable leap forward ' though many will say backward ' for filmmakers Mark and Michael Polish (Northfork
). Billy Bob Thornton's Charlie Farmer, a once-aspiring astronaut relegated to running his family's ranch, devotes all of his time and money to the building of a rocket ship at home, much to the chagrin of his patient but long-suffering wife (Virginia Madsen) and the naive delight of his three starry-eyed children. Banks, the media, the FAA and the FBI are breathing down his neck; the latter uses the Patriot Act to keep Farmer under 24-hour surveillance. The Polish brothers recognize the futility of pursuing a radical act in the wake of a terror attack, but the film is hardly a product of today's hip cynicism. Coming off like Horatio Alger in a spacesuit, The Astronaut Farmer
is anachronistic in a refreshing way, echoing the persistent can-do industriousness of classic Americana, where working hard to achieve your goal is all that matters. Equal parts tragic pathos and triumphant gusto, this affecting film is ultimately about love, family and commitment, none of which are currently high-grossing or marketable concepts.