Movie review: Lucky Them

downloadJuly 9, 2014 – When I read the synopsis of “Lucky Them” (before I saw the movie), I immediately thought of “Almost Famous”.

It’s not difficult to make comparisons. Both tell the story of rock journalists on the road to track down a story, both are based on semi-autobiographical elements of the scriptwriters’ lives, and both are good films about the world of rock and roll. Aside from that, they’re quite different.

Emily Wachtel (the semi-autobiographical author) and Huck Botko wrote the Indie romcom that tells the story of a seasoned rock journalist who covers the Seattle music scene and lives by its code (she has fish named Kurt and Courtney, for example). The journalist, Ellie, played by Toni Collette, is assigned to track down her musician ex-boyfriend to commemorate the 10th anniversary of his disappearance. Collette has amazed me since I first saw her in “Muriel’s Wedding” in 1994. Her character reluctantly accepts the assignment, if only to find out once and for all what happened to him. Did he commit suicide, as many suspect, or did he simply disappear by choice?

Collette has based her vast career on not repeating herself. Her characters are typically unique and interesting, from the shy, awkward wannbe bride in “Muriel’s Wedding” to the suicidal mom in “About a Boy”, to the woman with multiple personalities in “The United States of Tara”. She shines whether in a starring or supporting role, and always delivers a fine, believable performance. In “Lucky Them”, she plays her character as complicated, strong, vulnerable, flawed, and likable. She is also a woman who is easy with men, especially if they are musicians.

The supporting cast is just as strong. The fascinating Oliver Platt, one of the most underrated character actors of our time, plays her wise-cracking editor, and the hilarious Thomas Haden Church, with his offbeat, dry sense of humor, plays a man Ellie doesn’t know very well (they dated briefly), yet he invites himself along for the ride in an attempt to film her journey for a documentary. I laughed out loud at many of their shared scenes, and in particular at one that takes place during a conversation about throwing a bouquet at a wedding. Church delivers a line in that scene that is the funniest I’ve experienced in a long time.

The film also contains an appropriate cameo appearance by a big name actor, but I don’t want to ruin the surprise.

Throughout the 90 plus minutes, I enjoyed the tightly written and realistic dialogue, the interesting twists and turns in the plot, many laughs, and best of all, I had no clue how the story would end. That’s often the mark of a well-written script for me.

“Lucky Them” premiered last fall at the Toronto International Film Festival. It’s received a number of positive reviews, and is playing now at select theaters throughout the country. You can also catch it as I did, on “The Same Day as Theaters” promotion on Comcast On Demand.

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