December 4, 2017 – One of the last films made by the much beloeved actor Harry Dean Stanton (“Paris, Texas”) ends with a song by Foster Timms called “The Man in the Moonshine” that includes the words “Harry Dean Stanton,” along with “Paris” and “Texas” in it, paying homage to the legendary actor and the 1984 cult film he starred in.
“Lucky” (2017) is a film tailor made for Stanton. Unfortunately, Stanton died two weeks before the film was released. The film is directed by John Carroll Lynch (best known as an actor in “Fargo” and “Zodiac”) and one of the actors is this film is famed director David Lynch (“Blue Velvet”) but the two are not related. This is John Carroll Lynch's first film as a director, and it will be remembered.
Lucky (Stanton) is a 90-year-old atheist living in a small town in Arizona who is struggling to come to grips with his own mortality. It is also about Lucky's group of quirky friends and acquaintances, including Howard (played by David Lynch) a man who plans to leave his estate to his pet tortoise, named Roosevelt, who has escaped. Roosevelt is seen walking in the desert in the opening and closing scenes of the movie.
Lucky becomes angry and insulting towards the lawyer, Bobby Lawrence (Ron Livingston of “The 5th Wave”) who is preparing Howard's will and challenges the younger man to a fight. Later, after Lucky cools off, he listens to Lawrence explain his elaborate plans to take care of his own body and his family after his death. Lucky says, “This doesn't change anything for you in this scenario.” Lawrence asks why not, and Lucky replies because, “You're still dead.”
Lucky is a philosophical man who likes to work on crossword puzzles and try out new words and puzzle over their meanings. He is a clear thinker, who likes to cut through confusion with blunt talk. There is a whole scene in the film devoted to Lucky explaining why realism is a “thing.”
Realism is important to Lucky, especially the realism of death, the finality of it. There is no afterlife. The consciousness does not continue. There is only blackness and void. This is what he calls “The truth of the universe.” He explains this to his friends at the bar, and they ask him, “What do we do with that?” Lucky replies, “You smile.”
The film includes some emotional stories: A story about a smiling Japanese girl anticipating her own death deeply affected a soldier (played by Tom Skerritt of “Contact”) in World War II, a story about how a tortoise is greater than people, a story about killing a mockingbird, a story by a man deeply thankful for a woman whose love he doesn't deserve. There is also an emotional scene in which Lucky stands up and sings a song in Spanish, “Volver, Volver,” at a fiesta.
Harry Dean Stanton's performance is the kind of act that most actors could not pull off, but he is so soulful, so affecting that he really dominates this film. One of the reasons he dominates this film is that the whole film was built around him. It is a deeply moving performance.
The desert scenes were shot around Cave Creek Arizona, and the small town scenes were shot in Piru, California. The film is filled with amiable, colorful characters, including Joe (Barry Shabaka Henley of “The Terminal”) Paulie (James Darren of “Random Acts”) Elaine (Beth Grant of “The Artist”) Loretta (Yvonne Huff of “Dual Mania”) and Victoria (Ana Mercedes of “Knocked Up”).
This is an amiable tribute to Harry Dean Stanton made by him and his large circle of friends. This film rates a B.
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