Cinematic Releases: Lucky (2017) - Reviewed

On September 15th, 2017, the film world lost an American living legend with the passing of the great actor Harry Dean Stanton at the ripe old age of 91.  Despite aging well beyond what many expected, the man continued acting steadily until his final years.  Having recently made his grand appearance in American surrealist and longtime friend David Lynch’s celebrated Twin Peaks: The Return as the beloved Carl Rodd, Harry Dean Stanton in the same breath collaborated with actor turned filmmaker John Carroll Lynch in his debut behind the camera with Lucky shortly before his unexpected passing. 

Co-starring David Lynch, Tom Skerritt, Ed Begley Jr., Ron Livingston and Beth Grant, Lucky is a quiet, charming and modestly sized often heartfelt small town American drama concerning a 90 year old atheist struggling with aging and spiritual fulfillment.  As such, it’s largely an arena for Harry Dean Stanton to be himself in one of his final film roles and channel emotional weathers not seen from the actor in quite some time.  Mostly a dialogue driven picture of small talk rife with Stanton wisdom and heart, the film joins David Lynch’s The Straight Story (also featuring Stanton) though with less forward momentum and episodic nature as a compassionate drama about the fears of dying and trying to find meaning in a life slowly coming to an end. 

John Carroll Lynch displays solid direction and command of the visual medium with many widescreen vistas of Stanton traversing the small town of West Irvine, Kentucky, but for the most part the director moves out of the way for Stanton to unfurl and offer up what is already being called the performance of a lifetime.  Partially an autobiographical confessional and mostly a nice time with the acting legend, Lucky is as much about Harry Dean Stanton as a person as it is about his friends and loved ones’ connection to him.  Equally surprising despite being in a small part is David Lynch as an eccentric local who lost his pet tortoise with more than a few heartfelt soliloquys up his sleeve.  Lynch, who is already one of the great comic actors on his revival Twin Peaks series, comes into his own in Lucky despite only being onscreen for a short time.

These were the kinds of stories Harry Dean Stanton loved to tell with the very real homegrown setting a perfect fit for him.  While Lucky doesn’t quite approach the brilliance and compassion of The Straight Story and isn’t trying to reinvent the wheel, to be able to spend two hours with Stanton one last time in a piece that felt more like a parting confessional was a wonderful pleasure this longtime fan of his couldn’t resist.  One of the year’s most charming and thoroughly enjoyable independent film productions and a lovingly made farewell to the great actor, Lucky was for my money a splendid time at the movies.  More than ever it conveyed what it was like to see the world through Stanton’s eyes and how after a long life and career the man would find peace and contentment in the end.  

- Andrew Kotwicki