LUCKY THEM | REVIEW

Indie muso drama LUCKY THEM snuck into a few Sydney cinemas this week for a brief art-house run. I am keen on it for, well, Toni Collette, Thomas Haden Church, Oliver Platt and also to see Ryan Eggold in a role where I do not want to kill him (thank you THE BLACKLIST). Kernel Andrew, our muso movie journo hit this one up and shares his thoughts below. If you want to see it get out quick – being on a small indie run I cannot see it lasting for a long time in cinemas, check out Dendy for session times. LUCKY THEM is released from Regency Films, is rated MA15+ and runs for 97mins. All the best……JK. 

 

LUCKY THEM MOVIE POSTER IMAGE
LUCKY THEM | SALTY POPCORN MOVIE REVIEW | MOVIE POSTER IMAGE

 

BY ANDREW BRUSENTSEV

I was very surprised that LUCKY THEM, an indie charmer, directed by Megan Griffiths took so long to be released in Australia. I had heard very favourable reviews at festivals and screeners in the United States and elsewhere over a year ago. Not sure what the delay was or is, but there you go. Even in this day of immediate global releases and streaming via Netflix etcetera we sometimes have to wait. Strange concept no? Just jokes.

Toni Collette plays Ellie Clug, a veteran rock journalist, working for legendary music journal Stax based in Seattle. Ellie is clever, good looking, self-confident and unapologetic about her mistakes, her triumphs and her lifestyle. Her bright vibrant journalism of the past has turned into a same old same old phone-the-writing-in style, something tolerated by her editors as they know how good she used to be. From the first moments we can tell she has been around the traps a few times. The first scene where we meet Ellie sums up much of her personality. We see her dishevelled, having woken up in her bed, after another one night stand with a muso following an interview. We can tell that this has been a revolving door for her for many many years. Alcohol, a band, a hook up with some young up-and-coming good looking muso and then home to bed. It’s a life stuck on repeat. You know that sound the record makes when it ends and sometimes keeps spinning? That sums up Ellie.

 

LUCKY THEM MOVIE IMAGE TONI COLLETTE
LUCKY THEM | SALTY POPCORN MOVIE REVIEW | ELLIE KLUG (TONI COLLETTE)

 

When her editor, Giles (another great turn by the always reliable Oliver Platt), assigns her a story to cover the ten year anniversary of influential rock legend Matthew Smith, who went missing presumed committed suicide, we finally learn the reason for Ellie’s failure to launch. You see Ellie was Matthew’s lover and although their relationship was often self-destructive for both of them Ellie has never let go. Giles knows that the magazine really needs this and he knows that Ellie does as well. She needs something to smack her out of the rut she is in. He is unapologetic in letting her know that it is either this story or her walking papers that will grace his desk.

The scenes with Platt are one of the two standouts for me. There is this effortless give and take between Platt and Collette which establishes a relationship seasoned by a deep affection as well as mutual frustration. For the musical nerds amongst us Giles’ office is covered with some incredible pieces of rock memorabilia – chief amongst them rare posters by the Afghan Whigs, Mother Love Bone and Mudhoney. Maybe it was just me that noticed them first off the bat.

 

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LUCKY THEM | SALTY POPCORN MOVIE REVIEW | ELLIE KLUG (TONI COLLETTE) and CHARLIE (THOMAS HADEN CHURCH)

 

Assignment in hand Ellie relies on her own recollections of Matthew to move forward in pursuit of him. It is here that we meet the other highlight of this movie. Charlie (Thomas Haden Church), a very bizarre libertine businessman who Ellie went out with a couple of years ago. Charlie still pines for Ellie but the feeling is not really reciprocated. Charlie is now a sudden dot-com multi-millionaire and now spends his time pretty much doing whatever he wants. Upon hearing Ellie’s tale of journalistic woe over a drink in a bar Charlie informs her that he now fancies himself a documentary filmmaker and agrees to finance Ellie’s investigation if he can turn her findings into a movie.

In other actor’s hands this wafer thin plot may have really veered off the rails into snoozerville. But full credit to the previously mentioned and the movie’s standout, Haden Church. He is absolutely hilarious. There is this absolute lunacy that Haden Church channels through his character and it mixes in very well with what Collette brings to the scenes. He is brash, rude, money care-free as only a multi-millionaire can be and has a habit for saying the most inappropriate things at the worst possible moments. Honestly I think it is as good as his stellar role in SIDEWAYS. It is a sensational acting turn from the always reliable Church.

 

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LUCKY THEM | SALTY POPCORN MOVIE REVIEW | LUCAS STONE (RYAN EGGOLD) – NICE TO NOT WANT TO KILL HIM (BLACKLIST THING :))

 

As a counterpoint there is one another man in Ellie’s life. A new singer-songwriter named Lucas (Ryan Eggold – THE BLACKLIST), whom she first meets when he’s busking on the sidewalk. Lucas, in a sense, is a link back to the rut which strangely this journey to find Matthew is starting to show Ellie. Not only show her but unearthing decade’s-worth of scars and pain around the loss of the love of her life. Ellie knows that these relationships are toxic. But he is young, good-looking, funny and caring, also a musician. Lucas is enormously likable and he pursues her so ardently, it’s hard for her to resist.

There is one more honourable mention, that of Nina Arianda, who plays Dana, Ellie’s caring, wise-ass best friend. A bartender who’s always available to chime in on her love life as well as giving Ellie an honesty about her relationships that she herself has perhaps glossed over. At some point we feel Ellie will have to make some hard choices. The easy choices of her rut or the hard choices of confronting her past and perhaps finally letting Matthew go.

 

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LUCKY THEM | SALTY POPCORN MOVIE REVIEW | ELLIE KLUG (TONI COLLETTE) and CHARLIE (THOMAS HADEN CHURCH)

 

The script from Emily Wachtel (which I found out is semi-autobiographical) and Huck Botko has a delicious sense of dialogue. It allows the four actors mentioned work with the written page. There are some dull spots but this has more to do with directorial pacing than script flaws.

There is definitely a formula here and the movie is unevenly paced. This can most be felt in the saggy middle. But there is enough here from all the actors to really allow this story to shine. It is poignant, reflective and incredibly funny. The ending is one that should not be missed.

Go see it. I will definitely give it a rewatch.

PLAYING HERE!!

CINEMA NOVA, VICTORIA
DENDY NEWTOWN, NSW
CINEMA PARADISO, W.A
HOBART STATE CINEMA, TAS

 

3 and a Half Pops