With Hot Pursuit, her buddy comedy with Sofia Vergara, proving a hot mess at the box office after getting raked over the coals by critics, Reese Witherspoon is retreating back into dramatic territory for Pale Blue Dot.
Witherspoon, who was Oscar-nominated earlier this year for her performance in Wild, will portray a successful female astronaut who returns home from an extended mission, only to find her mind unraveling as she attempts to readjust to a seemingly perfect American life. The pic, written by Brian C. Brown and Elliott DiGuiseppi (the Black List scribe behind Uncle Shelby), explores the idea that astronauts experience an unusual form of mental illness when they return home, finding it tremendously difficult to regain a grip on earthbound reality.
Buzz is strong on this one, with Witherspoon also producing through her Pacific Standard banner. Hollywood has been hot on space-related dramas since the runaway success of Gravity, with such dramas as Interstellar, this fall’s The Martian and upcoming Passengers all sending A-listers to the final frontier. But Pale Blue Dot takes a look at astronauts from a very different perspective and could be all the more worthwhile for that.
The pic’s lead actress remains one of Hollywood’s most in-demand stars. Also on her schedule is family comedy Wish List, about a woman, as a child, who made ten wishes on a coin she then tossed into an wishing well, unaware that the coin never quite reached the well’s magical bottom. When it’s finally knocked from its resting place 25 years later and makes contact with the water, all her wishes unexpectedly come true in the middle of her adult life, leading to bizarre results. That pic sounds much more commercial than Pale Blue Dot, which is characteristic of Witherspoon, who consciously moves back and forth between prestige pics and blockbuster fare.
Pale Blue Dot is housed at Fox Searchlight, which also made Wild with Witherspoon, so expect this to be approached as another potential awards contender.