Thank goodness for television’s “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and the “Twilight Zone,” and their plots revolving around portals and dimensions, or else many of us would have no idea of what is going on in much, particularly the last quarter, of “Interstellar.” Who knew TV could be so educational? In all seriousness, “Interstellar” is not all that easy to understand or hear, for that matter. More about that later. Directed by Christopher Nolan and written by Christopher and his brother, Jonathan Nolan, “Interstellar” is beautiful to look at and boasts a very strong cast. However, when the film is over, it seems as if the overly complicated plots (and yes, plots) could be boiled down to the Beatles’ song, “All You Need is Love.”
“Interstellar” opens with an elderly woman (Ellen Burstyn) talking about her father and the days when she was a young girl. Then we go back in time to those days set in the not too distant future. Thanks to drought, blight and dust storms, food is in very short supply and there is good reason to believe that the planet will not be able to sustain itself much longer.
Former NASA test pilot turned farmer, Cooper (Matthew McConaughey), is a widower who lives with his children, 10-year-old Murphy (Mackenzie Foy) and 15-year-old Tom (Timothée Chalamet), and his father-in-law, Donald (John Lithgow). Murphy is much more like the scientist part of her father and they have a very close connection. One night the two accidentally discover the secret NASA headquarters where a Professor Brand (Michael Caine) and others, chief among them, his daughter, Amelia (Anne Hathaway), are trying to find another planet on which humans will be able to live. Brand, who is Cooper’s former professor, decides to take advantage of Cooper’s special skills. To go further would give away too much of the plot. Suffice to say that a good portion of the remaining film takes place in space.
Matthew McConaughey is outstanding as the farmer/pilot. It’s unfortunate that his Lincoln car commercials premiered before this film because some of his dialogue and delivery sound like they come directly from those commercials. However, much of “Interstellar” falls on McConaughey’s shoulders and he carries the weight well in spite of that distraction. He’s very convincing in all the many facets of his character’s personality. Jessica Chastain is very good as the adult Murphy. She has very emotional scenes, some of them absent any dialogue, and she shines in all of them. But Chastain is no match for the actress who plays her as a young girl. Mackenzie Foy is simply terrific and her scenes with McConaughey are really at the film’s core and they are amazing together. The one minus is that Foy bears no resemblance to Chastain, in fact looking much more like Anne Hathaway. Hathaway turns in a fine performance as McConaughey’s traveling companion, although her role calls for her to be a tad too emotional at times. Michael Caine’s role is small, but his scenes near the film’s conclusion are great. The film features what’s been called a cameo appearance by an actor who is critical to “Interstellar’s” plot (if you’re a reader of the tabloids, this actor is won’t be much of a surprise). He provides a good performance even though it’s not always clear what his character is doing or why.
Hans Zimmer’s score is extremely good, but its use is horrific. The music is simply too loud which makes portions of the dialogue impossible to hear. The same can be said for much of the film’s special sound effects. Louder does not mean better, especially if it’s blotting out what could be important conversations. Much of what is being said is hard enough to understand without the added burden of not being able to hear.
It’s clear that Nolan was going after something big. Unfortunately, despite the spectacular visual effects and some good acting, the unnecessarily overly complicated, hard-to-hear “Interstellar” falls short.
2 ½ nuggets out of 4