No “First Man”, But No Second Banana Either: Ad Astra

First of all, do you know what Ad Astra means? It’s a Latin phrase meaning: “Through Hardships to the Stars”. My former Latin teacher friends; Steve Beaulieu, Mary Belleville, and Susie Scoppa will appreciate that mini lesson.

But Ad Astra is also the title of the new movie by James Gray. I don’t own any movies, nor books; if I want to reread or revisit, there’s the library or streaming. BUT, if I was forced to go into outer space Like Brad Pitt does in Ad Astra, and take only five movies with me, I’d choose an older James Gray film, “Two Lovers” with Joaquin Phoenix and Gwyneth Paltrow. So check out that flick when you have a chance, gorgeous and emotional performances by everyone.

Ad Astra enthralled me, but to use a Palin, ‘I betcha’ a lot of folks won’t like. What First Man did with giant sound, Ad Astra does with quiet spaces. And you know how modern day folks can’t stand the silence.

Without giving spoilers, Brad Pitt goes in search of his dad, Tommy Lee Jones, who decided he’d rather stay in outer space rather than come back to this God forsaken planet.

The film does a great job in the first half showing the ridiculousness of an inhabited and colonized Moon, with Subway sandwich shops and hooligans who commit crater (road) rage! The suspense was built nicely throughout this portion.

I still enjoyed the quieter more meditative second half and appreciated Brad Pitt’s lending facial expressions and body language to nuance an emotional performance. And while I thought Chazelle’s First Man was better story telling, (and I realize that’s a Captain Obvious statement, given it was a true story) I believe Pitt is at the Diderot’s (author of The Paradox of Acting) epox of life where his emotions are under control, yet accessible enough to portray such gorgeous inner struggle.

In a contemplative mood, go see Ad Astra, you’ll enjoy the peace.

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