For those of us who remember the seventies it is painted in brown and orange, wood panelling and shag rugs, and cigarettes and alcohol. For some of us this was the adult world we had little interaction with, during the seventies I would have identified most with Kylie Rogers’ character Sunshine wandering around drifting in and out of the lives of the adults mainly unsupervised and mostly ignored. For others of us we remember the insecurities of the sexual revolution and the over medicating of Valium to wash away the anxieties.
The story itself is actually a simple one, not simple in easy or lacking of nuance but simple in its lack of wasteful complexity. Directed by Jack Plotnick who also served as the co-writer with Michael Stoyanov both of whom are responsible for the stage play from whence the film’s script sprung this is not the kind of movie I expected. Plotnick, who was regularly featured on Reno 911! and who’s film work to date has been mostly farces and spoofs like Girls will be Girls and Dupieux films.
Set on Station Omega 76 we are dealing with a group forced to socialize many of whom want little to nothing to do with one another. Led by Captain Glenn (Patrick Wilson in a role possibly darker than his role in the Watchmen), your point of entry to the group is Jessica a young officer assigned the role of second in command (played by a very quiet Liv Tyler). The tension between Jessica and Captain Glenn is immediate, his insecurities at not just a new second in command but a female second in command and it’s quite clear he’s unhappy but you don’t come to understand why until later in the film. The rest of the regular players are made up of Ted (an earnest Matt Bomer) and Misty (a believably self-absorbed Marisa Coughlan) and their daughter Sunshine (the fragile but entirely believable Kylie Rogers), Steve (Jerry O’Connell playing it to the sleaziest max but never coming across as unbelievable) and Donna (Kali Rocha who’s focus on status is entirely believable) and their unnamed infant who is, until the end, a piece of furniture and all of them seeking solace in the “care” of Dr. Bot their cybernetic prescription happy space shrink (voiced by Michael Styanov).
The film itself is like a pressure cooker slowly building momentum and volume until it explodes. When it does, the result is entirely unexpected and I have to tip my hat to the writers. There are some very easy outs they could have dumped on us, some almost trope confrontations that we could have expected but that never happened and the film ends with the same kind of ambiguity it started. There’s some resolution but not everything is fixed. It’s like the valve was opened and the steam escaped but it was closed up again and in time that pressure will build once again and how it will vent off next time is up in the air.
This film is certainly not for everyone, if you are going in looking for a fun hard laugh don’t watch this. Go back to Spaceballs or Ice Pirates but if you want something that’s darker and maybe more ambigious this may be the film for you. Available on iTunes and Amazon Instant Video (as well as possibly other streaming services) the video is easy enough to get and can be rented for as little as 4 dollars.