Fly Me to the Moon Review

To this day, there’s a not-insignificant number of people who believe the United States faked the moon landing: In one poll conducted for C-SPAN for the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission, some 6% of respondents expressed the belief that Neil Armstrong’s one small step was taken on a soundstage, not the lunar surface. The fizzy new Hollywood comedy Fly Me to the Moon offers a more plausible spin on this perennial fixation of cranks and just-asking-questions types, positing a version of history where NASA was ultimately prepared to fake the moon landing, should such a contingency plan prove necessary. The film folds this cheeky bit of tinfoil conjecture into a modestly appealing, throwback crowd-pleaser – a faintly unfashionable romantic comedy set against the gee-whiz backdrop of the space race. Without indulging in a lot of blatantly retro affectation, Love, Simon director and former Arrowverse boss Greg Berlanti communicates with the spirit of a bygone era of star-driven studio confections, the kind in vogue when America first reached for the stars. Think of a Doris Day vehicle where she has both moon rock and Rock Hudson on the mind.

The Storyline

The script by Hollywood scion Rose Gilroy (her dad made Nightcrawler, her mom teamed up with Riggs and Murtagh in the last two Lethal Weapons, and her uncle did Andor) drops us into the lead up to Apollo 11. America’s honeymoon with NASA is effectively over, and the space program is fast losing support from both the public and Washington, as headlines turn to the ongoing quagmire in Vietnam. Enter Kelly Jones (Scarlett Johansson), a confident marketing wizard recruited by one of Richard Nixon’s right-hand fixers (played by Woody Harrelson) to revamp the whole image of the egghead operation in Florida. Introduced manipulating a room of sexist automobile executives, Kelly is basically Donna Draper, complete with a tragic, Dick Whitman-style secret identity. It’s refreshing to see Johansson escape the enigmatic steeliness of Marvel action duty with one of her bubbliest star turns, though her character here is as slippery as Natasha Romanoff: a self-described con woman trying on new accents and personas as needed.