Lucky review by Mark McPherson - Cinema Paradiso
While I initially thought the return of Twin Peaks was a sweet send-off to the brilliant Harry Dean Stanton, it is his final film Lucky that really makes the biggest statement and greatest showcase of an aged actor with an amazing gift. Here is a film all about getting older, making connections, and not being so fearful when your life comes to an end. And seeing Stanton in such a role with David Lynch acting right alongside him is incredibly sweet.
Staton plays Lucky, the oldest man in the small community of Piru, California. He has a routine; going for walks, buying smokes, stopping at the bar, and cursing at the luxurious garden fenced off from the desert. He takes care of himself and he doesn’t; he exercise regularly, both in and outside his house, but also smokes a large amount of cigarettes. He’s apparently earned this treat of tobacco, considering his doctor (Ed Begley Jr.) states that smoking doesn’t seem to damage Lucky. But that still doesn’t mean Lucky is immortal, as he starts fainting and having strange visions of red. The end is coming.
But Lucky doesn’t let these thoughts linger too long as he has plenty of distractions. At home, he loves watching game shows and calling out the contestants on their lack of knowledge. At the diner, he enjoys doing the crossword puzzle with other patrons who also enjoy the activity. At the bar, he has a beer and listens to the younger bartender try to sell him on the show Deal or No Deal, a concept Lucky savages for wasting too much air time. Also present at the bar is Howard (David Lynch), a man so obsessed with his pet tortoise named President Roosevelt he plans to leave him all his money. Lynch absolutely dominates this role where he laments on how Roosevelt escaped his care, coming to terms with the fact that maybe the tortoise wanted to leave. Lucky just believes he is crazy.
There’s a silent acceptance of the coming end that Lucky tries to make his relationships more honest and heartfelt. He takes an interest in a convenient store clerk and attends her party, regaling the partygoers with his ability to sing in Spanish. A home care worker stops by to make sure everything is okay, leading to the two of them smoking weed on the couch while watching old movies. Stanton brings real gravitas to this kind of role where is expected to be both a simple man of docile pleasures yet also bite when he senses teeth. One of the best scenes features him trying to tell off the entire bar about how little we will matter when our time comes as everything decays and passes. A lesser actor could have made these words hokey but Stanton makes them come from somewhere deeply personal and profound.
There will never be another actor quite like Harry Dean Stanton and there will never be a movie quite like Lucky for the final film of an esteemed actor like him. Long-time actor turned first-time director John Carroll Lynch makes a stunning directorial debut with a film that is quiet, contemplative, and brimming with character. The ending of watching Lucky casually mosey on into the distance is such a fitting closure, leading to the end of a great man and perhaps that birth of a great new director.