The astronaut at the heart of “Lucy in the Sky” loves having traveled in space. It blew her mind. But back on Earth, nothing is the same, causing her to slowly unravel. That’s the gist of writer-director Noah Hawley’s trite, melodramatic, metaphor-heavy drama, which is genuinely lost in space.

Natalie Portman is Lucy Cola, an over-achieving astronaut, going toe-to-toe with the alpha males at NASA. Told from a female perspective but written by three men (Hawley, Brian C. Brown and Elliott DiGuiseppi), the movie paints Lucy as a mentally unstable stalker who cracks after her boss (Colman Domingo) deems her “too emotional.” If the scenario sounds familiar it’s because it’s loosely based on the bizarre 2007 story of Lisa Nowak, the astronaut who drove 900 miles to attack her lover’s girlfriend in Florida.

Hawley doesn’t outfit Lucy in any diamonds ala John Lennon’s song. Instead, Portman is gifted with eye-rolling metaphors (think: butterfly emerging from a chrysalis) and a bad wig and cringe-y Texas accent. The film opens as Lucy floats in outer space. She gazes down upon our tiny planet, smiling in a state of pure contentment. Ah, the solitude of space! A voice interrupts the silence. It’s time to go home. “Just a few more minutes,” she replies. In the blink of an eye, Lucy is in the pick-up line at her neighborhood school, fetching the niece (Pearl Amanda Dickinson) sent to live with her and her husband (Dan Stevens, sporting a garish mustache that distracts from his baby-blue eyes.)

Before the space shot, Lucy’s life was on a perfect trajectory. Upon splashdown, she’s changed - and not for the better. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to discern that Lucy’s trip was an escape from her straight-laced, Type-A life - the one where she graduates top of her class at the Naval Academy, fixes broken garbage disposals, opens tightly sealed jars of jelly and says things to her husband, like: “the azaleas look nice.” She’s also driven pretty hard by her irascible-but-lovable grandmother (Ellen Burstyn, like Portman, an Oscar-winner). Lucy moves a mile a minute and when a NASA therapist (Nick Offerman) suggests she slow down, Lucy skips the next three sessions.

This is more than “rocket lag.” She’s like a soldier with PTSD. Lucy resists the mundane, things like going to Applebee’s to watch Monday Night Football. Instead, she has her sights set on the heavens, a realm in which she “never felt so alive.” Another mission launches in 18 months. Lucy wants in - and in the worst way. But she faces competition from a younger astronaut (Zazie Beetz), leading to self-destructive tendencies, aided and abetted by a fellow astronaut played by Jon Hamm.

Considering the premise, Hawley (FX’s terrific “Fargo”) should have dived a lot deeper in his directorial debut. He aspires to explore an existential crisis that comes off as nothing but rote: emotional women and heroic men. It’s a de rigueur Portman might pour her heart and soul into, but it never achieves liftoff.

Dana Barbuto may be reached at dbarbuto@patriotledger.com or follow her on Twitter @dbarbuto_Ledger.

“Lucy in the Sky”
Cast: Natalie Portman, Jon Hamm, Dan Stevens, Ellen Burstyn, Nick Offerman.
(R for language and some sexual content.)
Grade: C