With the passing of legendary screen actor Harry Dean Stanton, I wasn’t expecting his final film to be an easy watch. Finding out that it was about a man trying to find a way to accept he was going to die didn’t make me think it would be any easier. Stanton has turned every character he’s ever played into a usually stubborn blue collar curmudgeon. He does just that here. What I wasn’t expecting Lucky to be was a breezy simple tale of death and friendship.
Stanton stars as Lucky, the town grump who is used to living his life on the rails. The audience is treated to his routine through a montage scored by a screeching harmonica. Lucky brushes his teeth, has coffee with plenty of cream and sugar, buys his milk from the convenience store, and eventually ends up at the bar where he meets up with the quirky, friendly townspeople. And after listening in on a few conversations, he heads home to sleep. After falling down suddenly and being told by his doctor that there’s nothing wrong with him except he’s old, Lucky ponders what it means to be alive.
Lucky ends up being the kind of film that shines when you’re listening in on the veteran actors sharing various diatribes and anecdotes. Every single actor carries their weight and more than adds to the material. It’s hard to pick highlights when everyone from Beth Grant as the bar owner to Ed Begley Jr. in a cameo as the doctor, all the way to David Lynch (yes, that David Lynch) as Howard, a man who is mourning the disappearance of his hundred year old tortoise. Everyone is perfectly cast and more than able to supply the film with the heart and humor the script fails to deliver.
The script by Logan Sparks and Drago Sumonja severely drags what could have been a profound and delightful story into just being merely delightful due to the extraordinary cast. Never once does the movie let you feel the experience before it must tell you how you should feel. Heavy handed metaphors, like bright red lights illuminating exit signs, wandering tortoises, or Johnny Cash singing about the joys and darkness of life, stain the film’s message to being just that and nothing more.
It’s worth giving a shoutout to first time director John Carroll Lynch, a veteran actor who gives superb performances in every role he has. His direction isn’t ever flashy or distracting. Carroll Lynch is smart enough to understand the actors are great enough that all you need is to point the camera at them and the movie will be decent at the very least. This leaves his movie feeling lifeless at times. His direction is mostly serviceable but nothing more than that.
By the end of the film, I couldn’t help but think how much Harry Dean Stanton means to the film community. A large portion of Stanton’s legendary contemporaries show up and give great performances in as little as one scene. I also couldn’t help but think that if this movie didn’t have Stanton in it, these actors would not have given the script the time of day. Lucky is an appropriate farewell for the legendary actor, but it doesn’t live up to some of the material that showed how great he could be.
- Harry Dean Stanton delivers a spectacular final performance
- Stanton's fellow cast all bring their A-Game
- The story of Lucky is an appropriate, and sadly timely, farewell film
- The script is beyond awful. No nuance to a story that should be full of it
- Director John Carroll Lynch has an eye for a great story, but his direction leaves much to be desired