Starring Harry Dean Stanton, David Lynch, Ron Livingston, Ed Begley Jr., Tom Skerritt, Beth Grant, James Darren, Barry Shabaka Henley, Yvonne Huff Lee, Hugo Armstrong and Bertila Damas.
Screenplay by Logan Sparks and Drago Sumonja.
Directed by John Carroll Lynch.
Distributed by Magnolia Pictures. 88 minutes. Rated R.
The final shot of Lucky has a giant tortoise, slowly but steadily making his way down a dirt road as a country-rock tune wails in the background, the lyrics going something along the lines of: “I’m a traveler, but I don’t have nowhere to go.”
Apologies if that seems like a spoiler. I normally would never tell a film’s ending. But the tortoise does not appear in the film before this shot (though he is mentioned a few times), nor does he play any real part in the storyline, so I felt like I was on safe ground about giving up this ending. The tortoise isn’t overly important to the movie; however, this scene pretty much gives you a good idea of what the movie is like.
Not much happens in Lucky, and what does happen goes by pretty slowly. That’s okay, though, Lucky is not about big action sequences and wild occurrences. No, Lucky is more like a cool sip of sweet tea on a scorching hot day, a simple pleasure.
More importantly, Lucky is a love note to one of the better actors of the last century. It is one final great role for an actor whose best-known works are decades behind him; among them, the likes of Cool Hand Luke, Kelly’s Heroes, The Godfather Part II, Paris Texas and Repo Man.
An actor, who, sadly, died just a few weeks ago.
It’s almost shocking to see how old Harry Dean Stanton looked in the opening scenes of Lucky (and he bravely did one scene wearing only boxers, which really accents the ravages of age on his body), until you suddenly realize the guy was over 90 years old. Word is that he put some hard living into those 90 years, too, so to an extent we are the lucky ones – just that he was still around to do one last tour de force.
Stanton played Lucky, an elderly former Navy cook who lives in some tiny desert town. He toddles around, walking the roads, visiting the diner and the local bar, watering his cacti, picking up cigarettes, sharing a joint with a neighbor lady, going to the doctor, chatting with a life insurance agent, going to a local party, serenading the hostess’ mother, talking war with a passing former Marine, taking out past grudges on a former watering hole, arguing the fairness of non-smoking rules in bars, checking out the local pet store and talking with his neighbors.
And that’s pretty much it. If you’re looking for action or a complicated plot, you’re in the wrong place, compadre.
But just because not much happens in Lucky, that does not mean that there is not a lot to see in the movie. Lucky is a good old-fashioned character study, and Harry Dean Stanton, who hadn’t had a role nearly this meaty since probably The Straight Story in 1999, made the most of it.
Lucky is the first film directed by another long-time character actor, John Carroll Lynch, who obviously is a fan of Stanton’s work and wanted to give him one last hurrah. Lynch has put together a wonderfully eclectic supporting cast – including Ron Livingston, Tom Skerritt, Ed Begley Jr., Beth Grant, James Darren and director David Lynch (who has directed Stanton a few times in the past) – but this was Harry Dean’s show.
Stanton played the title character, an elderly man, long retired, who frankly is just letting the clock run out on life. He’s never been married, never had any kids – at least not that have been proven, he states. He lives in a run-down shack on the outskirts of some desert town.
To keep himself active, he walks into town, spends his nights drinking in the local watering hole, and just exploring his tiny world. He talks about anything or nothing. He’s slightly anti-social, but not actively off-putting. Lucky is considered a local eccentric, usually nice, but mostly harmless, in his world.
Like I said, not too much happens, yet an amazing thing happens while not much is. With each little connection, each little conversation, each little life event, Lucky seems to slowly reconnect with his life. The futility and tiredness he showed in the early scenes are eventually replaced by a man who seems to be excited by the next chapter, strangely thrilled despite knowing he is coming to the end of the story.
I’m not sure if Harry Dean Stanton has any other performances in the can still waiting to be released. However, if Lucky ends up being the end of Harry Dean Stanton’s acting story, what a way to go out.
Jay S. Jacobs
Copyright ©2017 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: October 6, 2017.