Review: Fly Me to the Moon Soars to New Heights and Sticks the Landing

The perfect rom-com doesn’t exi—

Leave it to the director of Love, Simon and the producer of Red, White, and Royal Blue to serve up some age-old rom-com compost and still come up roses. Greg Berlanti’s saccharine and sparkling Fly Me to the Moon is another winning comedy that panders to the same audience that catapulted Anyone But You to social media stardom, if nothing else, the only difference being that it is anchored by actual charismatic performances.

Set in late-sixties America, in the thick of an unprecedented space race, Fly Me to the Moon opens with the sight of a nation divided. The idea of putting a man on the moon, expressly in the midst of the devastating Vietnam War, has provoked the ire of many not least for its astronomical cost. Public opinion skews negative. This is where Kelly Jones comes in. She is to sell the restless Americans on NASA’s historic Apollo 11 moon landing.

But it isn’t long before the Manhattanite marketing maven finds herself at odds with the agency’s launch director Cole Davis. Every one of her ideas is met with resistance. The true-blue former Air Force pilot scoffs at the idea of turning what he deems the pinnacle of human achievement into a media circus. Undeterred, Jones bends and breaks the rules to sway his view on the matter, thus kicking off the film’s enemies-to-lovers subplot.

Scarlett Johansson lends her movie star magnetism, which has been sorely missed from her early-years chick flicks to the screen and lights it up with her ditzy mannerisms and ridiculously charming accents. Her shiv is expertly concealed in its sheath, her femininity a weapon in a man’s world, always at the ready to make those in power succumb to her genius. She is the perfect match to Channing Tatum’s stoic and strait-laced Davis.

Her agility in teetering between ambition and ethics is on full display when the line further blurs upon the order that she stages a fake moon landing as a backup. Facing an internal turmoil unfamiliar to her, Johansson peels off Jones’ mask with aplomb, revealing herself to Davis who is marred by his own past. These intimate instances—a makeshift date in the moonlight, a heartfelt apology in a quiet breeze—repurpose the rom-com tropes sans cloying sweetness.

It is a showcase of Berlanti’s expertise in blending tones, crisscrossing between the silly and the sad, and there’s a lot of silliness here. Much of the upbeat tenor of Fly Me to the Moon is owed to its firecracker dialogues, committed performances—a special shout out to Jim Rash’s commercial director extraordinaire whose delivery has the room in fits with every sassy one-liner—and a running cat-astrophic gag that seamlessly ties the movie together.