Welcome to Buried Credits, a column that deep dives into the IMDB pages of favorite actors, directors, and writers to find their lost, forgotten or unknown film and TV credits.
Favorite TV Roles: Fargo, Goliath
Favorite Film Roles: Slingblade, A Simple Plan
Currently on tour with his band, The Boxmasters.
The Astronaut Farmer (2006)
Going by the DVD cover, The Astronaut Farmer is exactly what it sounds like: an astronaut in full space suit (Thornton) riding a horse. It can’t make sense but it’s out there, and once you know about the film you can’t walk away. There are too many unanswered questions. Either the professions work together like gangbusters or remain mismatched. Neither spells the movie’s defeat.
What does is making Astronaut Farmer a drama. Peeling away at the outrageous title, Farmer is Charles’ last name. His rocket is in a barn, but you won’t find anyone planting crops in-between calling Houston.
The basis of the movie is a man who believes in a dream no one thinks he can accomplish and, despite outside pessimism (and the FBI), perseveres. That dream? Launching a rocket he built from spare parts in his backyard without NASA’s support. His three, school age children are mission control.
Farmer is like rubber. Reality checks bounce off him, but they should make him reconsider what he’s doing. His actions aren’t responsible and, more importantly, put his family at risk. Massive debt and an impending foreclosure — he needs to stop spending money, but instead buys an amusement park ride for training.
Keeping his wife, Audrey (Virginia Madsen), in the dark about their funds, the worst part about Farmer is he’s self-righteous, with a temper. After finding out about their finances from somebody else, Audrey confronts Farmer about his silence. He acts like she’s in the wrong for bringing it up. How he turns their conversation back on her is a mystery, but Farmer isn’t afraid to give challenge. During an FBI inquiry he tells Bruce Willis (yep, Bruce Willis) not to continue a line of questioning he doesn’t like. His commands are given without an ounce of humility.
It’s basically take your pick for reasons Farmer should change projects but he never acknowledges anyone has a point. There’s a real chance he could die and leave his wife and kids without support but, in an insult to his talents, Bruce Dern gets to die in his place, so they have an inheritance that solves their money problems.
There’s nothing heartwarming about the selfishness of Thornton’s Farmer, and his acting becomes a mute point to the rage this film exhumes. It’s a bit like watching Thornton’s Coach Taylor after knowing Kyle Chandler’s. His brand of love is rough, not inspirational.
Verdict: Better Left Buried