Main cast: Ryan Gosling (Neil Armstrong), Claire Foy (Janet Shearon), Corey Stoll (Buzz Aldrin), Pablo Schreiber (Jim Lovell), Jason Clarke (Ed White), Kyle Chandler (Deke Slayton), Christopher Abbott (David Scott), Patrick Fugit (Elliot See), Lukas Haas (Michael Collins), Shea Whigham (Gus Grissom), Brian d’Arcy James (Joseph A Walker), Cory Michael Smith (Roger B Chaffee), and JD Evermore (Christopher C Kraft Jr)
Director: Damien Chazelle
It is hard to call First Man a terrible movie, because everything about it is too self aware to be actually awful. However, it is the dramatic retelling of Neil Armstrong’s life, and I’m sure everyone knows how this story will end.
As with social media these days, this one was embroiled in some silly drama about this Neil Armstrong not planting the US flag on the moon, an omission that irked the more patriotic members of the social media – and it doesn’t help that some of the folks behind this movie insist that the omission is done to make non-US folks feel “included”. Oh come on, as if anybody these days has nothing better to do than to get offended that the US got to the moon first. However, the movie itself has plenty of “See? See? The American flag!” moments, and the omission kind of makes sense as this movie is about Neil Armstrong, not the US racing to the moon. Perhaps having the pivotal scene that will turn the movie into some political statement is out of place in such a personal movie.
Unfortunately, as I’ve mentioned, we all know the story, especially how it ends. Worse, they cast Ryan Gosling, who once again plays another fellow of a few words, wrestling with angst while looking at the camera with his sad, sad eyes. Given that this is another movie of his which tanks in the box office, and is now banking on hopefully winning a few Oscars next year to get back some of the money it has lost, I’d think Mr Gosling will try to vary his repertoire. Maybe he’s happy to feed on critical acclaim even as he becomes the darling for casting agents who don’t value their track records or job, I guess, but Neil Armstrong is another one of the same role Mr Gosling plays over and over. Maybe someone should cast him as a superhero in a Marvel movie – if that movie bombs too, then we can positively confirm that this guy is 100% box office poison.
Oh yes, First Man. It’s hard to find anything interesting to say about it because it’s just a competently yet pretentiously put-together Hallmark schlock masquerading as Oscar bait. Daughter with brain tumor, ooh, so here are plenty of close-ups on that dying brat acting vacant as Mr Gosling puts on that singular Eeyore-is-sad expression that will be present throughout this movie, his previous movie, and likely his next one too. Lots of dramatic pauses and people talking slowly, because everything in this movie is supposed to be dramatic in that “Psst! We’re totally whispering that we need the Oscar with every other breath the character takes, but pretend that we’re gazing deep into our navels instead!” way. Seriously, the opening scene is Mr Armstrong having jet troubles, and I know this is a drama because that scene unravels in such a sluggish pace that it’s like death is coming to take us all… slowly, very slowly, because it wants that Oscar really bad.
The wonky camera close-up thing is full at work here too, because it’s the in thing now for movies that want to be taken seriously. Two people will talk, and the camera will then zoom in on the coffee cup on the table while the conversation is on, because life is deep, words are deep, and Oscar please. There will be long close-ups on the actors’ faces as they stare blankly at the camera. Look at Claire Foy’s face up close! Look at her for three long minutes as she just looks on without any movement on her face! This, people, is art.
Oh, NASA drama. Some people die, and Neil is sad. Quick, one more close up on that Eeyore face! Another one. One more for good measure, because eyes are the window of the soul and the camera close-ups are windowpanes that will open for the Academy people to push the Oscar through the window into these people’s outstretched hands.
TL;DR: daughter has brain tumor, NASA has drama, Neil lands on the moon, and everyone is sad and happy, the end.