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Magnolia Pictures; 88 minutes

Director: John Carroll Lynch

Written by Chelsey Grasso on September 29, 2017 

Having lost Harry Dean Stanton a mere two weeks ago, the wound still seems too fresh to speak of. Indeed, as I write this review, it’s a bit like sprinkling salt on the cut — nay, laceration. While the legendary man’s passing is more than heartbreaking, his final film, Lucky, stands as a glowing testament to his capabilities as an actor. Along with a towering performance in a career full of towering performances (no matter how small the part), the film feels fitting for the final work of Stanton, and one, I would imagine, he would feel is a superb punctuation mark to a remarkable career.

The plot is simple: a man faces his existence after having lived what can only be imagined as a full and eventful 90-year life. Stanton commands the film in a quiet way, something which most Hollywood actors can only dream of accomplishing during the length of their careers. It’s a spiritual journey. It’s a physical journey (landscape is key and something that director John Carroll Lynch uses masterfully). It’s a relational journey. Put precisely: it’s many things.


However, of the many things it is, a swift-paced film it is not. Quite to the contrary, it’s exactly this lethargy that manages to carry so much of the film’s beauty with it. While the loose narrative follows Lucky (played by Stanton) around his small, desert town, repeating visits to the local diner, corner store, and dive bar, the scenes are anything but repetitive. Lynch has found away, somehow amidst the monotony, to make a statement on mortality that’s just as heart-stopping and anxiety-ridden to the viewer as it is to the 90-year-old atheist, Lucky, that faces it on screen.

As for Stanton, his performance comes across so authentically that one’s heart is bound to break when his does. The assuredness of his script, the fragility of his movements, and the thoughtfulness of his character make for a performance that feels like a culmination of his weathered essence. Just wait until you get to the scene when Lucky wants to “take it outside” with an unbearable life insurance salesman (played by Bobby Lawrence) who’s taking advantage of his friend’s lost turtle tortoise. Or if that doesn’t get you (though, it will), then Lucky’s sharing of a joint with the diner waitress will.


It’s in the smallest movements that one is able to pick up on the biggest of sentiments, be they joyful, indignant, or utterly devastating. It takes one hell of an actor to make you want to cry after watching him complete a crossword puzzle on his worn-down sofa, but Stanton earns it, and then some. James Darren and Beth Grant also make up some of the stand-out supporting cast, playing a graying couple that has only recently come into each others’ hormone-raging arms. David Lynch also holds his own within the phenomenal ensemble, taking up the role of Lucky’s longtime friend who has recently had his beloved tortoise (and best friend) escape from his home. It may sound stupid, but as if plucked from Lynch’s own cinematic universe, it’s anything but light.

John Carroll Lynch — an actor who perhaps was most memorable leaving a brief, but deep impression in Zodiac — makes a distinct mark in his debut, mostly thanks to the man of the hour. As if taken from Stanton’s own mantra, Lucky is a powerful reminder that life really does amount to nothing (and still, somehow, everything).

Lucky opens on September 29.


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