Noah Hawley’s feature directorial debut looks to splinter the psyches of love-torn astronauts.
Fresh off their Best Picture win for The Shape of Water, as well as major acting wins for Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, Fox Searchlight is looking to nab more attention through genre storytelling in Pale Blue Dot. Directed by Noah Hawley (Legion, Fargo), the film will center on Natalie Portman‘s astronaut character struggling to connect to humanity after she’s returned from space. Based around a real phenomenon that occurs after prolonged zero gravity exposure, intense feelings of isolation and hallucinations will plague Portman as she attempts an affair with a fellow space explorer (Jon Hamm, according to casting news via The Hollywood Reporter). Things are further complicated when Hamm courts a NASA trainee, causing Portman to spiral out of control.
Based loosely on the true crime story of Captain Lisa Marie Nowak, an astronaut who drove 900 miles from Houston to Orlando to murder her romantic rival. It was a sordid tabloid tale that deeply embarrassed NASA officials, but it’s also obviously bizarre enough to grab Hollywood’s attention. Armed with a BB gun and a knife, Nowak wore diapers to expedite her journey across the country. She was arrested at the airport where she planned to slay her colleague as she stepped off a plane.
Finding empathy in the cracked has become a specialty for Hawley. Following in the impossible footsteps of the Coen Brothers, the showrunner excelled at probing an understanding in the mad men and women of the Fargo TV series. In Legion, Hawley literally entered the fractured mind of Dan Stevens’s schizophrenic mutant exposing the horrible thoughts we all attempt to bury. The creator gets human ugliness, and he helps us come to terms with it as well.
Specifically with Legion, Hawley has embraced the outsider status we all cling to at one point or another. Through the lens of this X-Men spinoff character, he has been able to root around in our fear of isolation. He uses mental illness to illustrate the disconnect we’re all constantly battling, and gains our sympathy the further down the rabbit hole he plunges our hero. That descent is a perfect parallel to Pale Blue Dot‘s potential disintegration of control.
As she proved with Black Swan, Natalie Portman can portray cracked better than anyone. That psychological horror film from Darren Aronofsky delighted in punishing Portman’s splintering point of view. Her character’s metaphorical war with Mila Kunis’s competing ballerina seems like a hop, skip, and jump to what we could be getting with Pale Blue Dot.
Jon Hamm is just the handsome brute ready to take the punishment. His having owned our interest with Mad Men, I’m not sure we’ll ever see him in another significant lead role again. He’s been an Old Spice to a lot of slick flicks (The Town, Baby Driver, Marjorie Prime), but we’re still waiting for him to have the cultural impact on the big screen like he had on the small one.
Hawley and Portman are the real draw here. And the crazy, batshit human horror story of Lisa Marie Nowak.