Starring Harry Dean Stanton, David Lynch, Ron Livingston, Ed Begley Jr., Barry Shabaka Henley, Yvonne Huff, Beth Grant
A recent renaissance of overlooked twilight-aged actors getting their overdue leading role, has almost formed a sub-genre. The never nominated Stanton (The Green Mile) is the most recent addition to the club that includes Blythe Danner, Lily Tomlin and Sally Field. The big catch here is that Stanton, aged 91, passed away before the film opened. This could very likely create more buzz for the movie than it would have otherwise received, including awards attention. Lucky comes to us from the most recent actor turned director John Carroll Lynch, whose name might not be household, but his face certainly is. Just last year Lynch appeared on screen as President Johnson in Jackie and one of the McDonald brothers in The Founder. This quirky little indie plays far more with imagery, than narrative, as we are introduced to an elderly man waiting to die.
A cigarette, brushing teeth, yoga stretches, milk and coffee. That’s the morning routine for Lucky (Stanton) who lives alone; clarifying the difference between being alone and lonely. He walks everywhere, which is mostly just into the dusty Podunk town in Arizona where everyone knows everyone business. He keeps his mind sharp with crossword puzzles and conversation with diner employees and customers. “I gotta go, my shows are on,” he says when the conversation lasts too long. Lucky has a secret, it’s nothing earth shattering, but he’s scared. After a fall at home that landed him at the doctor, there isn’t anything wrong with Lucky except that the human body will deteriorate at a certain age, despite luck, health and determination.
Lynch isn’t interested in wallowing through sadness, it’s about a moment in human life rarely explored on film.
We see these elderly men everywhere. The ones with no family, no ties and nothing but their health leading them into the next day. Lucky will flash a smile or two when he sits down each night at the local bar, conversing with fellow patrons as he tries to sneak a smoke. Lynch isn’t interested in wallowing through sadness, it’s about a moment in human life rarely explored on film. “You are one of the lucky ones that makes it to this stage,” the doctor (Begley) says. The monotony of the film takes a toll on the viewer, but at the same time drives home a point. One could easily argue nothing happens in this movie, because it doesn’t. We begin and end in literally the same place, having spent a few days with Lucky to gain perspective.
Lucky has its highlights, among them, a cameo from Stanton’s Alien co-star Tom Skerritt. The two veteran characters reminisce about their war experience in a scene that becomes a benchmark for the narrative. Another scene at a birthday fiesta has Stanton serenading guests with a mariachi band in the background. It’s one of the most beautiful and innocent scenes I’ve ever seen from Stanton on screen. It becomes obvious what Lynch has done with casting here. He’s taken some of the most iconic background and supporting actors in film, from Beth Grant (Little Miss Sunshine) to Barry Shabaka Henley (Collateral), and orchestrated them around one of Hollywood’s longest running underrated performers.
Lucky is one final showcase of Harry Dean Stanton’s screen presence.