At least you didn’t give a dead animal to someone on their wedding day.
All the promotion I’ve seen for Lucky Them takes great pains in not showing the identity of Matthew Smith — the boyfriend of our heroine Ellie Klug. However, if you have even a small amount of computer acumen, you will be able to find out who the actor is without much effort. But I think discovering his identity is worth the wait — the impact will be much more rewarding. So, in this review at least, I will keep the mystery man a mystery, so you too can be surprised when you finally see the man who stole Ellie Klug’s heart.
Ellie Klug (Toni Collette, United States of Tara), is a music critic who writes for a Seattle based magazine. When she’s forced to write a story about her former boyfriend, a musician on the brink of superstardom who vanished 10 years earlier, it brings back memories that Ellie uses booze and men to forget.
Ellie Klug is a hot mess. Her life is a frenetic frolic between rock shows, booze, and a plethora of sexual partners. She has fallen into this sad spiral after the disappearance of her life love Matthew Smith. Smith was a Seattle music phenomenon, on the verge of rock stardom after the release of his first album. But on the night of the show that would’ve sent his career into the stratosphere, Smith was a no-show. His car was found parked near a waterfall where authorities believe he took his own life. But did he?
Lucky Them takes place ten years after that defining night; Ellie still writes for the magazine, but her career has taken the same downward trajectory as her personal life. The storyline may appear to resemble that wonderfully awful 1983 film Eddie and the Cruisers, but fear not, this is what that movie only dreamed of being. Oliver Platt (X-Men: First Class) plays Ellie’s editor Giles, who’s patiently waiting for Ellie to snap out of her funk. But he needs a story to revive a magazine that was once hipster paradise, and he thinks a story about Matthew Smith on the tenth anniversary of his disappearance will do the trick. But Ellie isn’t interested in the whole ‘is he or isn’t he dead?’ angle, because the pain of Matthew’s disappearance is still an open wound that refuses to heal — I know sounds gross huh?
Thanks to an old boyfriend named Charlie, played by Thomas Haden Church (Sideways), who wants to make a documentary about Ellie’s search for Matthew, she embarks on the journey she needs in order to move past the man that, dead or alive, has Ellie stuck in reverse. She refuses to give her heart to anyone else, lest they take it out and stomp on it the way Matthew did. But her life has veered into the pathetic, and she has to make a decision soon, or be stuck there forever.
Toni Collette is a favorite actress of mine, and in Lucky Them she is fantastic! Very smart, yet as big an idiot as they come, making one bad decision after another on her downward life spiral, and Collette plays her with such incredible realism. One scene in particular, after the trip has taken a great emotional toll on her, Ellie finally breaks down. The well of emotions she shows, with just her face, is amazing. How can someone show sadness, happiness, surprise, and heartbreak, without saying one word? It was so damn real, I just wanted to give her a hug. Underrated doesn’t begin to describe this actress. Then there’s Mr. Oliver Platt, I always think of him as the comic relief/sidekick from all those hip late ’80s early ’90s films; back then he seemed to be in every hit movie released. But this dude is as solid an actor as they come, that’s why he is still working steady, when many of his former brat-packers are on the unemployment line. Platt is fun to watch as the pot smoking, foul mouthed editor who forces Ellie to face what she’s been avoiding for far too long.
But the show stopper in Lucky Them is definitely Thomas Haden Church as Charlie. A world away from the actor who played Lowell Mather on that old NBC series Wings. Here he is brilliant, delivering some of the most hilarious lines with a deadpan that Buster Keaton would envy. At first his character appears to be a shallow and self-centered bore. But as they embark on their road trip to find Matthew, Charlie turns out to be the common sense voice that Ellie needs; even if he does give a dead Galagos Bush Baby to his wife as a wedding gift, in a scene that is even funnier because of the understated way in which way he plays it.
Directed by Megan Griffiths, the story grew from an idea by writer/producer Emily Wachtel. Emily grew up with Paul Newman’s daughter, and before his death, Mr. Newman read the script and gave it his blessing. A man with a career as accomplished as Newman’s, knows from whence he speaks — and he was right on the money about Lucky Them. The performances are spot on, and writing that delivers rich and believable characters with a tremendous amount of depth, making this small indie film one worth watching.
Lucky Them is an MPI release, and this transfer to DVD is nice, highlighting the wet beautifulness that is Seattle Washington. The Dolby 5.1 audio underscores a wonderful soundtrack, and crisp clear dialogue. Extras include a Behind the Scenes featurette, and a tighter, edited version with some of the same interview footage. Also included is the film’s trailer.
Lucky Them is a fun, quirky little film. Even though it doesn’t really cover any new ground, as far as subject matter goes, that doesn’t lessen its appeal. It’s that familiarity, done very well mind you, that makes this film work. The characters are likeable, and their recognizable attributes makes them feel like old friends. I think most of us have been Ellie, or have had an Ellie in our lives at one time or another; someone wallowing in a moment from the past, that keeps them there until they can see their way out of the pain.
Lucky us, it’s not guilty.
Lucky Them (DVD)
2014, MPI, 96 minutes, R (2013)
VIDEO: 1.85:1 AUDIO: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English) SUBTITLES: English (SDH), Spanish
EXTRAS: Featurettes, Trailer ACCOMPLICES: IMDB