The debate over the difference between mainstream and independent movies has raged for decades. The line has blurred more and more over the years as so-called independent companies began financing multi-million dollar films like The English Patient or Fargo, which were still labeled as "independents." To make things more complicated, what does one call a movie made by an independent filmmaker for a mainstream audience, say Steven Soderbergh's Out of Sight, Richard Linklater's School of Rock or Spike Lee's Inside Man? I'd argue that we could call it an acceptable compromise between personal vision and entertainment, and a case in which everybody wins.
That's also the case with Michael and Mark Polish's The Astronaut Farmer. It's the fourth film by the identical twins, who write all their screenplays together and appeared together in their debut, Twin Falls Idaho (1999). Subsequently, Michael has established himself as a director, while Mark has taken on acting roles. Their three previous films, which include Jackpot (2001) and Northfork (2003), certainly cannot be classified as "mainstream." A familiar collection of odd, beautiful wanderers and losers populate their frames, from Siamese twins, to a traveling, professional Karaoke singer and a pair of mysterious, black-suited agents charged with evacuating the site of a future lake. This time the hero of their film does not fit in with this crowd and we have the makings of an American hero: a man who launches his own rocket into space.