The Astronaut's Wife
New Line
Review by Heather Picker | posted November 9, 2000
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As noted in countless reviews, writer-director Rand Ravich's The Astronaut's Wife is thematically similar to Rosemary's Baby (1968, d. Roman Polanski). Jillian Armacost (Charlize Theron, who played a like character in The Devil's Advocate), the young, schoolteacher wife of NASA astronaut Spencer (Johnny Depp) becomes pregnant and slowly begins to accept that something sinister is happening. No, Spencer didn't make a pact with Satan, but he did go on a mission that lost contact with Earth for two minutes.

Jillian, who even sports a 'do reminiscent of Mia Farrow's famous [b]Rosemary[/b] look (actually, it is more of a cross between the hair of Farrow and MTV veejay Serena Altschul), feels alienated when Spencer returns and exhibits uncharacteristically withdrawn behavior, is given more reason to mope around when he resigns from the space program and takes a job with a firm that necessitates a move to New York, and generally spends an hour and fifty minutes delaying the inevitable by looking pensive and chatting with her sister, Nan (a bright spot in the film provided by Clea DuVall). A subplot is the plight of Spencer's friend and fellow astronaut, Alex Streck (played by Nick Cassavetes). Alex was with Spencer when they lost contact, and as Jillian learns from his wife, Natalie (Donna Murphy), is now acting like Spencer.

The Streck storyline concludes with the separate, ugly demises of both Natalie and Alex, the circumstances of which contribute to Jillian's suspicions that something went wrong during those two lost minutes. Though only a small part of The Astronaut's Wife, the Streck's story ends up being more satisfying than that of the Armacosts. Jillian inches, ever so slowly, closer to the truth, eventually with the aid of a former NASA employee (Joe Morton) who ventures to New York in order to provide her with information that is supposed to be terrifying, but instead prompts the response, "It's about time."

The concept had potential, but the script, by Rand Ravich (scribe of Candyman: Farewell to the Flesh) is uneven and has a ridiculously bad final act. Depp and Theron are both solid, however, and Ravich's directing fares slightly better than his writing. Morton, Cassavetes and Murphy provide good support, but there is nothing redeeming here.

The DVD: The Astronaut's Wife is a New Line release. As such, you can expect to get your $24.98's worth of quality, though supplementary content is lacking. The widescreen, anamorphically-enhanced transfer is stated on the packaging as being presented in the 2.35:1 aspect ratio, but it should be noted that it is actually shown in 1.78:1. A dark film, the colors are perfectly rendered and the detailing is excellent. The soundtrack is also top-notch, with clear dialogue, score and sound effects. There are two English tracks to choose from, 5.1 Surround Sound and Stereo Surround.

The features include the original theatrical trailer, cast and crew filmographies, closed captioning, interactive menus, and scene selections. DVD-ROM content includes access to the original website contents, the option of reading the screenplay as you watch the film and a bonus Lord of the Rings web browser. Though disappointing compared to other New Line releases, The Astronaut's Wife DVD is much better than the film itself.


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