Harry Dean Stanton’s last major role sees him play Lucky in director John Carroll Lynch’s feature film debut. Martin Carr explains why this is an ideal swansong…
There is a laid back laconic style to this parred back character study from director John Carroll Lynch. Featuring an eclectic cast which include Tom Skerritt and David Lynch, Lucky succeeds or fails on the strength of its leading man. That this leading man happens to be screen legend and seasoned veteran Harry Dean Stanton, provides writers Logan Sparks and Drago Sumonja with the necessary anchor to make it work. Leisurely in its pacing, unconcerned by dramatic tension and dismissive of characteristic friction, Lucky bypasses such narrative necessity handing over the screen to Stanton completely.
Embittered yet indifferent, disciplined but dismissive of a universal life order or overarching religious interventions, Lucky divides his time between diners, bars and game shows. Belligerent in the face of change and seemingly unconcerned by the world around him, this film stands back and lets Stanton own the role. Supported with subtlety in a rare screen appearance by film director David Lynch, this is a movie in which very little happens. Moments of revelation occur over Liberace re-runs and bags of weed, while debates on theology and subjectivity are slipped into conversations concerning an escaped tortoise.
Quaint in its focus on small town Americana, questions surrounding the existence of God amongst many other deities, makes for a tone which is both sardonic and thought provoking. There is an indie feel which is perhaps what attracted Stanton to a role which regrettably gains its release after his death. Similar to Samuel Beckett’s Waiting For Godot where someone famously said of the two-act play nothing happens twice, little changes in Lucky from beginning to end.
There are ruminations on life and the passing of time while our cantankerous central protagonist goes from location to location causing ripples. In quieter more introspective moments you see the nuanced masterclass at work as Stanton allows his shield down briefly at fiestas and during farewells to close acquaintances. Lucky is a man who believes in nothing beyond his own existence, yet feels afraid in the final years of what he did not do, failed to try and those he ignored out of indifference. His diffidence and public persona eventually overriding any opportunities for change which might have saved him from himself.
Many other reviewers have spoken of this as being an ideal swansong for an underrated actor forever in the shadow of indie filmmakers. For once I am inclined to agree with everyone else as Lucky not only gives Stanton a celluloid send off with genuine pathos, but reminds anyone who watches what they have been missing.
Written by Martin Carr
Directed by: John Carroll Lynch
Written by: Logan Sparks, Drago Sumonja
Starring: Harry Dean Stanton, David Lynch, Ron Livingston, Ed Begley Jr., Tom Skerritt
Lucky was released in UK cinemas and On Demand, September 14.