Film Review: Lucky

Lucky is one of those films I hesitate to recommend, because those who go see it will either love it or be bored silly by the slow pace. The film is a character study and a meditation on aging, friendship, loneliness, hope and despair. Nothing happens in terms of plot, other than the lead character, Harry Dean Stanton, gets up every morning and goes about his day. He lives alone in a tiny house in a small town in the desert — the scene shots are beautiful. He smokes. He spends about half the movie in baggy white underpants and an undershirt, rather a sight given his scrawny aged body. He watches game shows and drinks coffee, sweet with a lot of cream. He stops by a diner every morning with a crossword puzzle in hand, and a bar in the late afternoon where he drinks a Bloody Mary with other regulars. He gets milk at a convenience store. Everyone knows his name. Everyone calls him Lucky. The townspeople look out for him.

If there is an event around which the film is organized, it’s a simple fall that Lucky takes in his home. He doesn’t fall over something, he just falls, smashing the coffee cup that was in his hand. He goes to the clinic, sees a doctor, has tests. The diagnosis? “You’re old, Lucky. The body wears out.

The characters are wonderful, including a 100 year old tortoise named President Roosevelt who makes two cameo appearances, both important to the film. Liberace is there too, onscreen in Lucky’s living room.

I think Lucky is a small gem, and I enjoyed it very much. The film runs for 88 minutes, and I was able to relax and simply go with the flow of the story — a deeply human, vulnerable, and touching narrative about a very grouchy old atheist close enough to the end of his life to reach out and poke death in the eye. Stanton did in fact die this year, shortly before the film was released, which adds to the film’s poignancy.

I do recommend Lucky, if you can enjoy a quietly powerful film about a really old guy living every day while getting ready to die. It’s the farthest thing from any film I’ve seen recently, and all the more powerful for it. At the end, I think you’ll smile.

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