A variety of characters have highlighted
Billy Bob Thornton’s acting career,
from a former murderer in “Sling Blade” to a NASA technician in “Armageddon”
to the ‘badder santa’ Willie in “Bad Santa,” just to name a few. But for the first time ever, Thornton plays a man with values which reflect his own lifestyle more than anything: a family man with a big dream.
In “The Astronaut Farmer,” Charles Farmer (Thornton), a man of education and hard work living the typical southern
lifestyle, possesses one quality that separates him from the rest: a dream since childhood to be an astronaut. Bearing this dream since adolescence, Farmer went to college, earned a degree in aerospace engineering and joined the Air Force as a pilot.
Things were looking up for his dream until a personal tragedy caused him to quit unexpectedly.
Years later, Farmer decided he didn’t need NASA to achieve his dream and spent the next decade working in his barn, building his own rocket. His friends and family know about the project in his barn, but never take him seriously. “I always believe you’ll launch the rocket, honey,” said Farmer’s loving wife, Audie. “Someday.”
In this unique family film titled “The Astronaut Farmer,” the story of a man with an incredibly unrealistic dream is portrayed both realistically and emotionally, allowing the audience to go along for the ride as Charles Farmer struggles to live a dream he refuses to let go of. Members of Farmer’s family are unceasingly supportive, but are the cause of his inner struggles to actually launch the rocket. Launching the rocket meant not only the danger of losing his life, but the effects of his death and his family member’s resulting lives of regret and misery. While building the rocket, threats of financial devastation and even incarceration bring hardship to Farmer, causing unexpected turns in the plot.
Farmer’s rocket is not only a material
construction but a metaphor for the film’s greater message. This dangerous object symbolizes Farmer’s dream, the one thing he is totally persistent upon achieving throughout his entire life.
“Everyone seems to have their own rocket,” said co-director Mike Polish.
Support from friends help the closely-knit Farmer family see through the problems it faces for the sake of one man’s not-so-unattainable dream. Everyone in the audience can relate to the plot and in some way, draw comparisons between the Farmers and their own family. Because “The Astronaut Farmer” targets a family-friendly audience, the film’s weakest aspects lie in aspects of the plot that seem far-fetched and illogical.
The two or three scenes when the audience scratches its head are only convincing
to children. Thankfully “The Astronaut Farmer” isn’t like the cheese of Disney flicks. And overall the film hits a cathartic nerve and reminds us to follow our own dreams. After all, what would a rocket be without a little fuel to get it moving?
Carlene Majorino can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.