This is a diverting and quaintly philosophical tale from actor and first-time director John Carroll Lynch. What seems like a conventional story of a cantankerous old man is rather a fictional celebration of legendary nonagenarian Harry Dean Stanton, who plays the titular lead. For a rumination on late life and the prospect of death, this is pretty slight fare. But the cast clearly enjoys paying tribute to Stanton, as the likes of David Lynch and Ron Livingston cameo as the citizens of an eclectic Southern town close to the Mexican border.
Lucky strides purposefully around in a place where everyone knows everyone. Then he suffers a fall at home. It seems inexplicable: he doesn’t feel light-headed or have neurological problems; his lungs are perfect despite a pack-a-day habit; he’s in great health for a man his age. The doctor notes that Lucky is simply getting old, a diagnosis that troubles and confuses him. Feeling more isolated and acting more abrasively, our protagonist is scared of acknowledging that death is soon despite his condition. He spouts his atheist doctrine to those who will listen, sneers at a gay couple and delivers sexist remarks to the local bar matriarch. In short, Lucky is a bigot. But his apparently lighter side is shown when he comforts Howard (Lynch) over the loss of a 100-year-old tortoise, appropriately named President Roosevelt (of whom the second left an enduring legacy). Lynch provides the most entertaining moments here, as Howard disbelievingly recounts the tortoise’s calculated escape. Lucky slowly confronts his existential worries: he sings in Spanish at a fiesta and smokes grass while watching Liberace on TV. The character’s surprising ability to serenade in a foreign language and his admiration for the famous pianist is presumably intended to qualify his embedded prejudices. The arc of the film suggests that Lucky will find peace somehow, and through meeting a fellow war veteran at the diner – he seems genuinely excited to speak to the marine – his place in life, his pointless point, starts to reveal itself.
Stanton is obviously the centrepiece and he embodies Lucky, whose weary cynicism alternately frustrates and amuses the town’s residents. He gives a particularly tough time to Livingston’s life insurer, making it clear that he won’t take up a policy plan. And this touches on the crux of the film: Lucky is facing up to death for the final time. Nothing much happens, the tortoise plods on for eternity and the old man will undoubtedly die soon, just later than the rest of us.
Lucky does not have a UK release date yet.
Watch the trailer for Lucky here: