I almost don’t want a movie to provide a simulacrum of what it might be like to be out in space right now. Engineers, and other employees whose brains are 90% scientific data, still after fifty years of space inhabitation, holding court over who gets to tell us what it’s like to see your home planet from the outside--how we might prefer to be in the situation where only Apollo and his lute was able to express the same. We think New Mexico, and we don’t only think of cowboy yokels bearing daily witness to desert beauty, but artists, poets, hippies, doing so. Space, however, is kept rigidly by those who see nothing amiss in their space station--the ostensible center for a community in space--being as cold and human-indifferent as any structure nearly forgetting it was built not just to withstand, but to house. When Sandra Bullock’s character peeps into her shuttle, the objects that float out aren’t items of décor, of domicile, but a Space Jam character--the difference in inner-life between any of them and your typical cubicle geek, is slight. I could handle it if this was critique--they made the main protagonist a likely NPR listener, after all--but it’s apparent the filmmaker kind of liked that the heritage of space still isn’t something we could imagine anyone knitting an afghan cover for. Throw a nervous Betty in midst of it, and it'll be a perpetual struggle for her to keep herself together--one doohickey into a slot, is about what she could manage--and that with relief. Which would contain her.
Part of me followed, immersed myself in Bullock’s character, with gratitude all the way appreciating her being at the forefront of heart-palpitating situations we can relate to. Part of me just balked at the whole thing, fixed on some corner of the screen, and kept my own composure whatever was happening. It's an hour and a half of struggle--something perhaps only soldiers and Formula One drivers and James Cameron, never cease to want to re-experience. The rest of us remain wary that if we too often brace ourselves against assaults, we'll get to the point where we never quite relax all the way out again. At the end she tasted the relief of being in a medium--the sea--where she had more control, those toned muscles, useless in space, getting to visibly, kinetically show they were worth all the hard work. I felt like telling her she should insist this be the worst inhibition she should ever let herself know--if space for us must still be first fish crawled onto land, we should let it go until the worst sublimation it can inflict still leaves us knowing the evolved flex of our substantial monkeydom.