Dr. Donna Copeland’s
TONI COLLETTE THOMAS HADEN CHURCH OLIVER PLATT
Director Megan Griffiths has made a big departure since I talked to her last, when she was presenting her film Eden, starring Jamie Chung at the SXSW film festival in 2011. Now directing a female led, produced and written dramedy starring Oscar nominees Toni Collette (Little Miss Sunshine, Enough Said) and Thomas Haden Church (Sideways, Spiderman 3). Lucky Them is an independent film with ambitions to change women’s place in cinema. Collette’s character is highly unusual, as she has a soft spot for young musicians that she very frequently hooks up with. Lucky Them is filled with a couple of surprises, but despite all the female producers, writers, director and talent involved, the only real rewarding performance here is from Church, who has resurrected a career on his comedic awkwardness.
Forced to research a dark segment of her past, Ellie Klug (Collette) reluctantly goes down memory lane with Matthew Smith, a musician she helped discover and fell in love with. He then mysteriously vanished, leaving a suicide note. The readers at Staxx can’t forget Smith’s incredible music and his legacy, so Klug’s editor (Platt) tells her it’s time to reclaim her position at the magazine or walk away. Klug teams up with an old boyfriend who has money and time to burn on this adventure to find the truth about the mysterious disappearing musician that people all over the world claim to have spotted over the years.
The most interesting element of Lucky Them is watching the rare interacting between plutonic friends of the opposite sex. Church and Collette are an interesting pair, both very good at comedy, and their scenes together are the high points of the film. However, the brooding and dark settings of the Seattle location reinforce confinement and the notion that these characters are bored and, thus, often boring. Drinking, sleeping around, and wearing pining, Collette’s Ellie is a disaster that never allows the audience to empathize with her; instead we just watch her make one terrible decision after another.
The film has one big grandiose moment due to the big name celebrity cameo that steals the attention away from everything else we have seen prior. Lucky Them has good intentions from a female perspective, but their characters are under developed and the script is patchy and ultimately forgettable. The music featured is a great asset, and the set or real location where the Staxx office takes place was really unique, colorful and interesting.
Final Thought – Lucky Them doesn’t feel so lucky for the viewer.
By: Dustin Chase
Lucky Them is an engaging comedy that is light-hearted and fun, but has some fundamental truths in it along the way. Ellie (Toni Collette) is a writer for a rock music publication, and is challenged by her boss to locate an erstwhile rock star who has disappeared from the scene. There are some rumors he killed himself because his car was found at the bottom of some waterfalls in Washington State. The task is daunting for Ellie because she used to date the rock star, but he had disappeared suddenly, only leaving her a cryptic note.
Ellie has just become acquainted with a street musician, Lucas (Ryan Eggold), and although she is very ambivalent about him, he pursues her—she thinks maybe because he hopes she can launch his musical career. He shows up just after the meeting with her boss, and after sitting on a bench with him, once again telling him they have no future, she quickly leaves. Unbeknownst to her, however, she has left something behind.
Ellie spends a fair amount of time in bars, always keeping an eye out for budding talent, when she runs into Charlie (Thomas Hayden Church), whom she had briefly dated in the past. He lets her know he has become wealthy—which does not impress her in the least—until she realizes she needs something from him. He may be able to help her find the long-lost musician. Thereupon they embark on an investigative quest, which he documents with a camera, because at the moment, he is an aspiring documentarian. During the quest, Lucas appears and disappears, Charlie gets married to an animal rights enthusiast, and just when they are about to give up the search, Ellie has a brainstorm.
The ending is not predictable—it could go any of several ways—and the way it is done is very fine. At the Q&A after the screening, I asked the panel (Emily Wachtel and Amy Hobby, producers; Megan Griffiths, Director; and Thomas Hayden Church) if this particular ending was in the script from the beginning. They lit up and smiled, saying that it was not there from the beginning, and that they considered several alternatives during filming. It may be that this accounts for the spontaneity and aptness of the one they chose.
Toni Collette, who always stands out in her movies, is electric in this role. Most of the time, she is rather happy-go-lucky and a little flaky, but with healthy self-confidence. At one point, though, she breaks down and shows emotion that has been building up for several—or more—years, and in this the quality of her acting shines through. Thomas Hayden Church is talented and skillful in coming across as a rather weird but sensible character, who is seemingly unaware that those around him (and the audience) find him very funny. He can be rather droll, but with a sweetness underneath that always comes through.
This is a great film for when you are looking for something light and fun.
By: Donna R. Copeland