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The Astronaut Farmer
A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this is an uplifting family-friendly fantasy populated by realistic characters and settings. Younger kids might need some context to understand emotional scenes involving a grandfather's death and a rocket crashing. A character throws a brick through a bank window in anger, and a wife throws a plate at her husband. Kids in the family have to deal with their father's reputation for being "crazy," and his wife has to contend with financial hardship in wake of her husband's obsession. One rocket launch results in an explosion and crash that leaves Charlie in the hospital (some blood). Mild language, including "ass" and "s--t."
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
A former astronaut who had to leave the space program to tend to family issues, Charlie Farmer (Billy Bob Thornton) still wants to be an astronaut in the worst way. By day, he works on his ranch (sometimes wearing his space suit); at night, he builds a rocket in the barn, with the goal of orbiting his capsule one time around the earth. The enormity of the project is daunting. Charlie leaves daily life details to his infinitely patient wife Audie (Virginia Madsen). Even when she discovers that Charlie has nearly bankrupted the family ("You're supposed to keep us safe"), Audie doesn't quite put a stop to the adventure. A visit from her own ailing father (Bruce Dern) makes her think hard about men's limits and aspirations, and how best to help them understand both.
Is it any good?
Part frontier myth, part family saga, and part redemption story, this disparate drama is about dreaming, sacrifice, and obsession. Charlie remains fixated despite money troubles, legal threats, and taunts. His quirky outlook recalls the Polish brothers' earlier films (Northfork, Twin Falls Idaho), but the one in this movie is more literal. It's also too dependent on Audie as a "device." Like many women in the movies, she bears and expresses the emotional costs of Charlie's masculine dreaming.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about whether this movie is a fantasy, a drama, or both. What makes something a fantasy? Families can also discuss how Charlie's two major responsibilities -- to follow his dream and support his family -- conflict with each other. Does he make a good choice? How does his desire to orbit his rocket both inspire and frighten his children? What obstacles does Charlie face? How does Audie support her husband?
- In theaters: February 22, 2007
- On DVD or streaming: July 10, 2007
- Cast: Billy Bob Thornton, Bruce Dern, Virginia Madsen
- Director: Michael Polish
- Studio: Warner Bros.
- Genre: Drama
- Topics: Misfits and Underdogs
- Run time: 104 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG
- MPAA explanation: thematic material, peril and language.
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