The charismatic Harry Dean Stanton recites the meaning of realism from his dictionary, held up by a lectern in his living room. Lucky is a man of a certain age, physically anyway, with a routine of morning calisthenics and crosswords. Scamp-ish and young at heart, Lucky must now come to terms with his own mortality. John Carroll Lynch, better known by many as someone usually in front of the camera (The Walking Dead, American Horror Story, Channel Zero) has taken his seat in the director’s chair for what is Stanton’s last leading role.
Lucky is somewhat of a loner in his mid-western desert town, but there’s joy to be experienced in his encounters with the other residents. We see him adapt to the changing world around him as he contemplates and struggles to accept his own finite time on earth despite his outwardly realist approach to most other aspects of his life and society as a whole. Stanton perfects the balance between curmudgeonly hermit and warm, charismatic neighbour in his portrayal of Lucky, a potty-mouthed pragmatist whose hard exterior gives way to his gentler side throughout the film, but never too much. He carries the movie until the credits roll, his character lifted and thoughtfully portrayed by Carroll Lynch who excels in his debut directorial role.
LUCKY proves that the simplest stories are the best, although the film harbours the usual tropes and harps back to the likes of GET LOW, but it’s still able to stand apart as Carroll Lynch sensitively and meditatively creates a space for character development without compensating on plot. LUCKY isn’t a rollercoaster of a story, more of a calming pedal-boat ride: its main purpose is its attentiveness to a man in his later years, who starts to realise he may not have much time left. David Lynch (who’s directed Stanton before) plays Lucky’s fellow bar dweller and proud tortoise owner. The cast – including Beth Grant, Tom Skerritt and Ron Livingston (an insurance broker touting his End of Life policy) – is strong, with some hilarious and heartfelt performances from the supporting cast too.
Stanton’s “Lucky” is on a par with his performance in PARIS, TEXAS (1984). LUCKY marks a promising beginning for Carroll Lynch as a director and is the perfect send-off for Stanton, an actor with only a couple of leading roles under his belt but whose presence always elevates and brings something to everything he takes on. May his furrowed and crevassed face forever grace our screens!