The frequently delayed launch of the James Webb Space Telescope drives the plot of Akash Sherman’s drama Clara. This shows how tricky it is to base fictional movies around real-life things: Reality doesn’t always follow release schedules. Isaac (Patrick J. Adams) is a hunky but sad astronomy professor determined to find evidence of an exoplanet suitable for life in time to be followed up by the about-to-launch Webb. (During production, the Webb’s expected launch date was 2019; at the time of this writing, it’s been pushed back to at least 2021.)
Put on leave after breaking too many rules but determined to find evidence in the preliminary data, Isaac takes on transient artist Clara (Troian Bellisario) as a research partner. Will this toothsome free spirit — who pwns the protagonist’s staunchly held atheism with the ol’ Newton switcheroo, while harboring her own dark secrets — teach him how to live again? Oh, she just might. The film Clara has lots of fascinating real-life science, and there are plenty of delicious astronomical visuals. But the character of Clara herself comes across as a bit too much of the Manic Pixie Dream Girl archetype, and the film bearing her name doesn’t quite earn its magical-realist denouement. The Webb will expand humanity’s vision, and hopefully future movies about it will do the same.
Not rated. Opens Friday at the 4-Star Theater.