Sandler gets serious, again

Adam Sandler in Spaceman / Photo courtesy of Netflix

Adam Sandler has admitted that often he picks roles depending on whether or not they let him travel to exotic locations so he can essentially have a studio-paid vacation while only occasionally doing work in front of the camera. 

Sure, the result of this practice is often junk like Grown Ups 2 and You Don’t Mess With The Zohan, but Sandler gets paid and he has fun, and I can’t help but envy him for that. 

Like a lot of comedic actors who are getting up there in age, however, legitimacy and validation from his more serious-minded peers eventually beckoned, leading to Uncut Gems, a film which saw the perpetually goofy Sandler take on a decidedly more dramatic type of role. Netflix’s Spaceman continues this trend, and although the film itself falls short of its ambitions when it has them, there is no denying that it is also amongst Sandler’s finest work, unconvincing Czech accent aside.

Plodding and purposeful, Spaceman is a very cerebral film that essentially boils down to a lone cosmonaut getting marriage counseling from a giant alien spider stowaway that may or may not be imaginary. There are additional science fiction elements, of course, but they are fairly silly and basic, often go unexplained, and are ultimately beside the point. This is a film about relationships, and when it focuses on these relationships it mostly succeeds in no small part thanks to the strong performances put forth by the actors. 

Sandler is particularly engaging, his subdued turn as the cosmonaut Jakub carrying the bulk of the dramatic weight with his subtle sadness and fraying sanity, and Carey Mulligan is equally as believable as his put-upon wife Lenka who just wishes to be seen. The dreamlike, surreal quality of Spaceman is interesting to watch as the film mixes reality, dream, memory, and a hallucination or two, but that doesn’t mean that it isn’t without its boring moments either.

Spaceman tries to make several profound observations on love and the human condition, and sometimes these observations land while other times they feel unearned and superfluous. There is a certain self-important quality to the film which can feel a bit off-putting, and it is when the film doesn’t shoot for the stars that it is the most likable. 

It is in these moments, however, that the boredom occasionally creeps in as well. Why? Because the counseling that Hanuš the spider (soothingly voiced by Paul Dano) gives isn’t anything unique to Jakub and Lenka’s relationship… it’s all stuff that a person who has ever been in healthy relationships (or who has watched a lot of T.V. and movies) would know already. 

It may be a pretty good movie about marriage counseling, but it is still a movie about marriage counseling.

Spaceman isn’t bad. Far from it, in fact. I might not have learned anything new from it like it clearly wanted me to, but the journey was still worth having.

Spaceman is now available on Netflix

Article written by TJ Reid

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