Directed by: John Carroll Lynch
Premise: A ninety year old atheist (Harry Dean Stanton) becomes aware of his mortality. Lucky reevaluates how he lives his life and what he believes as he faces the finiteness of his own existence.
What Works: Lucky takes place in a small western town and the movie has a vivid sense of place and is populated by characters who are unique and complex. The title character of Lucky is a ninety year old bachelor who has settled into a daily routine of exercise, cigarettes, and trips to the local diner and his favorite tavern. When Lucky inexplicably passes out he is seen by his doctor whose only diagnosis is that Lucky is old. That begins a story about the slow deterioration of the human body and Lucky is made aware of his mortality. Lucky is played by Harry Dean Stanton and it is a terrific performance. The character is outwardly brusque but he’s also intellectually sharp and fiercely pronounces his materialistic view of the world and Stanton is engaging and sympathetic without becoming pathetic. Lucky shares the town with a cast of colorful characters including Barry Shabaka Henley as a diner owner, Beth Grant as the proprietor of a local tavern, and David Lynch as a friend whose tortoise has disappeared. Tom Skerritt shows up in a cameo sequence as a fellow World War II veteran and although he is only in one scene Skerritt makes an impression that ripples through the rest of the picture. Lucky is about big issues of mortality and taking stock of the meaning of life but it’s never pretentious or too self-serious. In fact, Lucky is very funny and it avoid naval gazing or clichés and the movie is life affirming without getting corny or inspiring false hope. It’s a beautiful testament to being conscious and self-aware and reckoning with the smallness and finiteness of our existence and finding some peace with it.
What Doesn’t: Lucky never puts the title character’s beliefs to a serious test. That’s because the movie is more about what’s going on in Lucky’s head and gradually revealing the complexity and vulnerability underneath his hardened exterior. However, Lucky is so firm in his beliefs that he never entertains another point of view. He is essentially the same character at the end of the movie that he was at the beginning only with heightened awareness of himself and his mortality. That’s enough of a character arc to justify a story but it doesn’t give the audience much to hold onto especially viewers who are accustomed to getting a bit more overt conflict out of their movies.
DVD extras: Featurettes, interviews, and trailers.
Bottom Line: Lucky didn’t get much exposure in 2017 but this movie is worth seeking out. It has a terrific lead performance by Harry Dean Stanton in one of his final roles as well as an enjoyable supporting cast. It’s also a movie that gets down to something real and renders visible some of life’s intangible qualities.
Episode: #684 (February 4, 2018)