"October Sky" is to complex human drama what masturbating is to love.
I'd just like to take a moment to clue all the marketing flotsam at Universal Studios in on a little factoid: Advertising your movie as a heartwarming experience like "Field of Dreams" or "Fried Green Tomatoes" is like stripping the clothes off your director and plugging his anus with the antenna atop the Sears Tower -- it's just a matter of time before gravity takes over and you've skewered the guy like a kabob.
People are perfectly capable of being had without advance advertising. They understand that when they see an ad describing a film as "heartwarming" five weeks before the movie is even released, it's only because of the abnormal amount of residual heat generated by the friction of filmmakers and studio executives standing around the screening room slapping each other on the ass.
"October Sky" is to complex human drama what masturbating is to love. In 1957, Sputnik flies across the night sky of Coalwood, West Virginia, and suddenly Homer Hickam wants to build rockets. He gets his two best friends, Roy Lee (William Lee Scott) and O'Dell (Chad Lindberg), to help him, then convinces school geek and resident genius Quentin (Chris Owen) to help, too. The catch is that this is a coal mining town, and Homer's dad (Chris Cooper) is a coal miner who'll be damned if he's going to watch his boy ruin his life shooting rockets into the sky like some sissy-boy.
Homer's father has all the introspective ability of a pickaxe. He's so single-minded that you hope he doesn't survive when the inevitable mine collapse comes (there's a mine, and it's a movie, so there has to be one). Countering his father's negativity is Homer's teacher, Miss Riley (Laura Dern), who's the typical lone voice of hope in this town of toothless skeptics. Homer's mother (Natalie Canerday) is the '50s-mother caricature, ever-understanding of her asshole husband, until that one crucial moment when she has to demonstrate her toughness by raising her voice slightly. If my heart was warmed in this film, it was from boiling blood.
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