Directed by John Carroll Lynch
By Christopher Spencer
Directed by John Carroll Lynch, Lucky stars Harry Dean Stanton, Ron Livingston, Ed Begley Jr., Beth Grant, James Darren, Barry Shabaka Henley, with Tom Skerritt, and David Lynch. Lucky (Stanton) is a frail, old atheist living in a small town where everyone knows his name. In five days of his strange life, Lucky muses about the meaning of nothing and how death might just be an old friend to him.
It’s quite hard to even write a synopsis about Lucky because this movie really isn’t about that much. It honestly is 90 minutes of Harry Dean Stanton just talking about getting old, reminiscing about painful memories long since passed, and interacting with the nice townspeople about how lost he feels.
A week before I saw this movie, I read an in-depth feature article in Empire Magazine all about Harry Dean Stanton, the storied character actor who passed away in September of this year at 91. The article looked at Stanton’s friends in the past like Marlon Brando and David Lynch, his unexpected singing voice, how he approached acting, his WWII service, and just who he was as an enduring figure.
Lucky has all of that in a role that is both fact and fiction, like Michael Keaton in Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance). Stanton comes alive as Lucky, even though he plays the role in his usual deadpan fashion. That blank expression is just the surface however. Deep behind those sunken cheeks and those weary eyes lies a scared, beautiful man who knows the end is coming and is just facing that idea every day. I cannot tell where Lucky starts and where Stanton ends.
As a film, Lucky is probably elevated being a posthumous piece for Stanton. The emotional moments hit harder, the themes become strengthened and the side characters become more special when you see each of them touched by Lucky’s raw realism.
The film is incredibly audacious and features many visual and narrative choices that come seemingly out of nowhere. At times its odd and surreal like David Lynch’s films, other times its as harsh and realistic as I, Daniel Blake. But in the best of times, Lucky is just a flood of emotion, even in normal moments.
Lucky really is the perfect swan song for the dry, funny and totally enigmatic Harry Dean Stanton: an actor who did so much in his life but never took it for granted. This is a perfect performance from a legendary and dearly-departed actor, and Lucky is just beautiful from start to finish.