Last year we had Gravity, a chamber music concert compared to this year's grand oratorio, Interstellar. As we all know, our planet is going to seed, or in this case, dust, and something must be done to save mankind, worthy or not. Epic, each in its way, Gravity's outer space was intimate, a place for Sandra Bullock to heal with the help of George Clooney, while Interstellar's is vast and unmanageable: Matthew McConaughey's Coop is sent out there to fix that, to find a place for human migration. He leaves behind a family, most notably his devoted daughter Murph. Needless to say Interstellar is most successful as a movie when it is grounded in family, maybe because the acting is so good -- Murph, young, older and old (Mackenzie Foy, Jessica Chastain, Ellen Burstyn) and the fathers (McConaughey, and Michael Caine to Anne Hathaway's Amelia Brand). Interstellar is messier in space, maybe because the science is so garbled. Regardless, this movie must be seen as an essential part of this season's conversation about the trendy subject of our planet's demise, as well as its layered filmmaking.
As they are both scientists, the characters played by Chastain and Hathaway spout a lot of technical language. At the Tavern on the Green premiere last week, Hathaway resplendent in Rodarte, and Chastain in a crystal necklace over black each admitted that they forgot all the science once the movie wrapped. The technical language may wash over you too, but Interstellar, directed by Christopher Nolan and co-written with his brother Jonathan, was birthed by a worldview expressed in Nolan's Inception, with literary antecedents in a cosmology forged in the work of William Burroughs and Brion Gysin. Rather than fixing what's going fast on Earth, the idea is to leave. In Burroughs' view, we will have to abandon our bodies, our souls becoming their own space vehicles as perhaps seen in Steven Spielberg's prescient A. I. We are "Here to Go," said Gysin, with outer space a possible frontier. A more daring Interstellar may have envisioned what that might look like. Coop's return to Earth to witness his aged daughter's death indicates that even in this ambitious, entertaining movie, that leap has not yet come.
A version of this post also appears on Gossip Central.