To the moon: a laborious sixties romance (review)

To the moon: a laborious sixties romance (review)

Despite Scarlett Johansson’s energy, this romantic and wacky space epic never really gets off the ground.

To the Moon is not only a film starring Scarlett Johansson, it is also produced by her (through her company These Pictures), and you can feel at every moment of the film that it is her baby. The actress gives it her all, and it must be said that she shines as the female equivalent of the Don Draper of the series Mad Mena sixties advertising executive in high heels who holds her own against the phallocrats who cross her path, and who will soon be hired by a mysterious government emissary (Woody Harrelson) to boost NASA’s image with the American public. The shock marketer will then do everything in her power to make the space program sexy, even if it means imagining a fake moon landing, in case the real one, designed by a sullen mission director (Channing Tatum), doesn’t go as planned…

To the Moon intends to be many things at once: a sweet romantic comedy with a mood screwballcarried by a duo of neo-Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy, squabbling adorably before falling into each other’s arms; a pure space conquest film (but seen from the ground up), with all the serious moments that this entails (the evocation of the Apollo 1 drama, already recently brought back to light in First Man), “countdown” suspense and epic tone meant to make the hairs on your arms stand on end; and finally, last but not leasta sixties uchronia in the style of “ Once upon a time at NASA”, inspired by one of the most famous conspiracy theories – the idea that the 1969 moon landing was faked. It’s a lot for a single film, which suddenly seems jam-packed, overflowing everywhere (2h11 on the clock!), and doesn’t really work from any angle, neither the romance (laborious, Tatum seems strangely out of sync with his partner), nor the space epic (already seen a hundred times), and even less the wacky fable.

Director Greg Berlanti (Love, Simon) fails to give his film the magical and poetic flavor of an alternate history Apollo 10 ½ (where a child claimed to have been sent into space just before Neil Armstrong), nor the caustic and critical wit of a Capricorn One (Peter Hyams’ film about a fake space mission to Mars). Worse: by putting on the same level the real moon landing and the fake one, historical reality and its reverse fakeit’s as if he were accrediting both theses, in a very “post-truth” gesture that is probably intended to be unifying, but which mostly sounds sadly opportunistic. Oh my… Smiling stars, sixties charm, feel-good fantasy: we weren’t asking for the moon.

By Greg Berlanti, with Scarlett Johansson, Channing Tattum, Woody Harrelson… Duration: 2h11. In theaters July 10, 2024

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