Sunday, December 31, 2017

Video review: "Lucky"

I often find it to be the case that movies dominated by a single superlative performance -- “Ray,” “Capote,” “Darkest Hour” more recently -- tend to suffer as a whole. When one actor’s in every single scene, and everything is always about him, then the storytelling can often devolve into a series of encounters, all of which are designed to give the main performer another chance to act the hell out of a scene.

I feel that way about “Lucky,” which is destined to be remembered as the swan song for legendary character actor Harry Dean Stanton. He passed away at age 91 a few months ago, decades of credits of kooky, mesmerizing characters under his belt. Nearly always the supporting actor, he finally got a chance to be the lead, and he knocked the hell out of it.

(Though I should note Stanton still has one more film in the can coming out in 2018.)

It’s about a man, Lucky, who is outwardly much like Stanton himself: ancient, respected but regarded with a sort of distance by others. Living alone on the edge of a tiny city out west somewhere, each of his days bleeds very much into the next.

He exercises, makes cryptic phone calls to someone during which he picks a word out of the dictionary, then puts on his cowboy boots to amble into town to buy milk and cigarettes -- seemingly all he subsists on -- followed by a drop-in at the watering hole where he hobnobs with the other denizens.

The supporting cast is interesting, but as I said they flit in and out of the frame only so much as they can help Lucky along in his journey. Beth Grant plays the grandstanding owner of the bar, and James Darren plays her guy, who puts off a Vegas vibe. Ed Begley Jr. plays the town doctor, astonished at Lucky’s fine health despite smoking like a chimney. Tom Skerritt turns up as another veteran, with whom Lucky trades reminisces.

David Lynch, still doing that strange, robotic, hard-of-hearing line reading that he always does, plays another aging fellow with a turtle problem. (Blunt but true: if it weren’t for his directing career, nobody would call upon Lynch as an actor.) Ron Livingston is a local attorney, to whom Lucky takes an instant dislike. 

The screenplay by Logan Sparks and Drago Sumonja approaches Lucky sideways. We learn very little autographical information about him -- he was in the Navy, never married, but apparently was in love once -- yet we feel like we get to know him down to the ground. Lucky is defiantly atheist, yet as the end approaches he has many questions and concerns about what comes after.

The directorial debut of John Carroll Lynch, himself a noted character actor, “Lucky” is more concerned with raising difficult questions than dashing off easy answers.

Bonus features are slim but decent. They include two segments with Stanton, “A Few Words from Harry Dean Stanton” and “Behind the Scenes: Harry Dean Stanton’s Final Film Take,” along with interviews with Lynch and the screenwriters.



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