Harry Dean Stanton is "Lucky", an aged cowboy who lives in a dusty desert town where everyone knows him --- and he, in turn, knows everyone. Stanton passed away on September 15th at the age of 91 before the release of "Lucky". I hope he was able to see his marvelous performance before that day, because it's one of his best.
Lucky's days are filled with a series of rituals, one of which is exercising in his underwear after he awakes. You have to admire a 90-year-old man who's willing to appear half naked. But we learn that Lucky doesn't much care what others think of him --- and I'm sure Stanton didn't either.
This nonagenarian loner hangs out in the morning at Joe's Diner, trading the barb "You're nothing" with Joe (Barry Shabaka Henley). He walks everywhere --- to the convenience store, past a local watering hole he no longer frequents, and back home to watch his favorite game shows.
He smokes, he drinks, he passes out one morning in his kitchen which necessitates a visit to kindly Dr. Kneedler (Ed Begley, Jr.). Lucky knows he's facing his own mortality and he chooses to ignore it.
At night, Lucky takes up his bar stool at another haunt owned by Elaine (Beth Grant), whose husband, Paulie (James Darren, looking fabulous), is a permanent fixture. Another regular, Howard, is played by the well-regarded director David Lynch.
"Lucky" is a true amalgamation of wonderful characters, none more so than Stanton himself. Screenwriters Logan Sparks and Drago Sumonja wrote "Lucky" specifically for Stanton. They consider their work a love letter to this prolific actor, with much of the story taken from Harry Dean's own life.
I loved "Lucky" from the very first frame until the last. A film about an old man walking tirelessly in the hot sun, spending his time with the same people night after night may not interest some moviegoers. But Stanton is mesmerizing --- skinny, craggy, gruff and yet so subtly appealing.
My favorite scene --- and one that will stay with me forever --- involves an unexpected burst of song from Lucky at a 10-year-old's birthday party. He stands and warbles a beautiful Mexican ballad ---
a capella --- to the surprise of everyone at the party, and in the audience. It's just one more reminder of what a treasure Harry Dean Stanton was.
Opinion: Strong See It Now!
My first thought after seeing the wonderful little film called "Lucky" is that its star, 90-year-old Harry Dean Stanton, deserves a special Oscar akin to the Lifetime Achievement Award the Academy frequently bestows on veteran actors. Alas, Mr. Stanton passed away on September 15, 2017, so any such honor will be posthumous. He was ninety-one.
A traditional character actor in virtually all of his 199 film and TV credits, Stanton carries "Lucky", his next-to-last movie. It is likely the crowning point of his long and illustrious career.
Lucky (Stanton) lives alone, but he's not lonely. He knows everyone in town --- all "12" people from what we can tell. He is an elderly man living a structured life with rigid routines --- yoga, coffee, TV game shows, cigarettes, and a refrigerator that contains milk, and only milk. He is also extremely articulate and smart. He regularly does crossword puzzles, a sure sign of a highly intelligent person. (Jeanne can corroborate that statement since she lives with an avid crossword solver).
"Lucky" is a film about friendship, and the need for it in our lives. It doesn't necessarily mean between humans, it can also involve the love of animals. This is poignantly revealed as Lucky relates the saddest day of his life when he accidentally killed a mockingbird.
Furthermore, his friend Howard (played by David Lynch, most widely known as a film and TV director) relates a heartfelt, simply elegant story about his beloved pet tortoise. This takes place in the town tavern, where Lucky and his friends, typical barflies, can usually be found.
The film is rife with memorable characters, many of whom are noted movie stars fulfilling cameo roles. These include Tom Skerritt, Ed Begley, Jr., Ron Livingston and 81-year-old James Darren, looking no more than fifty.
Every bit as effective are lesser-known actors like Beth Grant as Elaine, the owner of the bar, with a great tale about a pistol --- and she is a pistol! And Joe (Barry Shabaka Henley), the owner of Joe's Diner. Then there's the scene with Lucky singing at a birthday party, and everyone joining in, including the mariachi band. This is one of those delightful films that will have you grinning from ear-to-ear.
"Lucky" is the feature film directing debut of John Carroll Lynch, himself a prolific character actor. You've seen his face, and you may not remember exactly where, but now you know his name. The screenplay is also the work of first-timers Logan Sparks and Drago Sumonja. Let's hope this trio can duplicate their magic in another project.
Opinion: Strong See It Now!