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Fly Me To The Moon ★★★



Released: 12 July 2024

Director: Greg Berlanti

Starring: Scarlett Johansson, Channing Tatum

Audiences will be forgiven for thinking that Fly Me To the Moon is a biopic about the song of the same title or a film exploring moon landing conspiracy theories. Whilst that may not be the case for this romantic dramedy starring Scarlett Johansson and Channing Tatum, set against the build up to the iconic NASA Apollo 11 moon landing in July 1969 – which will be celebrating its 55th anniversary in 2024, there is a tenuous connection to the song. The 1964 version of Fly Me To The Moon, as recorded by Frank Sinatra, is associated with those Apollo moon missions. Based on the story by Keenan Flynn and Bill Kirstein, Fly Me To The Moon is not a sombre film but neither is it a slapstick comedy as it attempts to straddle multiple genres but one thing is obvious –  Johansson’s charisma shines from the outset and elevates proceedings.

Not content with just her duties as producer. Johansson plays the lead role of Kelly Jones, a marketing maverick aka a spin doctor, hired to add some glamour to the prospect of NASA and having astronauts travelling to space during the times of the great space race. Inevitably, she is pitted against Tatum’s Cole Davis who is stern, whilst at work, in recognising the responsibility he possesses as he guides men to take a risk to travel to space. This may sound like a formulaic recipe for a rom-com where adversaries become lovers and indeed Fly Me To The Moon partially embraces these elements. An initial meet cute does highlight great chemistry, however Johansson is the one doing the heavy lifting.

Fly Me To The Moon does make clumsy attempts to demonstrate that it is a progressive film with a prominent woman in such a role, as a problem solver and negotiator, countering the sexist attitudes of the era and supported by a feminism supporting, political assistant.  Yet, the film cannot help falling in to established tropes. Johansson’s comic timing saves these moments as the flirty, impeccably dressed, Kelly Jones willing to take a no prisoners approach to succeed, whatever the costs. It is delightful to watch her performance as she uses her marketing spiel to convince many. Yet, her task to convince others that the moon landing is sellable, which replicates the beginnings of many of the brand marketing campaigns that we see today, becomes a question of morality and ethics, when she is requested to prepare a backup plan for the moon landing, in case of failure. This permits further insight in to a character that might otherwise appear to have no substance but thankfully, Kelly Jones is given an interesting arc which will intrigue audiences further.

The use of footage of the astronaut’s preparation and real life footage of the moon landing does result in tonal shifts within Fly Me To The Moon. The film presenting both the emotional fallout from previous failed attempts to land on the moon and equally leaning in to black cat superstitions. But, the cat steals the show in some hilarious unforeseen moments!

Despite these comedic aspects, the film does feel overlong. Unfortunately, Fly Me To The Moon can’t quite decide which approach it wishes to adopt, with some of the characters underdeveloped or not inspiring much confidence as Tatum’s Cole continuously seems out of his depth compared to the stylish, sophisticated Kelly. Woody Harrelson appears to revel in his role as a superior, for a few scenes, but does seem to be woefully under-used. Still, it is good to see Donald Elise Watkins, from Emergency, taking on roles in bigger projects although his character is not fully fleshed out either.

Fly Me To The Moon contains some impressive awe-inspiring visuals of the moon, evoking that sense of hope from a nation looking to make an impact on the international stage. The film may have benefitted from tighter editing, yet it oozes old fashioned charm to appeal to most audiences, proving an enjoyable watch. Johansson’s witty repartees with her sales targets, fully embracing her spin doctor persona will certainly keep audiences engaged. Whilst it may not offer any fresh perspectives, this is a film with heart that is bound to be a crowd-pleaser.

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