In his final on-screen role, beloved character actor Harry Dean Stanton takes centre stage with a powerful, sincere and hilarious performance. He plays the character of Lucky, a cantankerous yet endearing 90-year-old atheist and Navy veteran who embodies many of Stanton’s own real-life traits. Directed by first-timer John Carroll Lynch (a talented character actor himself), Lucky provides Stanton with a fittingly bittersweet send-off.
The film’s slim narrative follows Lucky’s daily routine and his interactions with the townspeople. Lucky starts off his day with several yoga stretches performed in baggy y-fronts, then he stops by a local coffee shop to complete a crossword, before taking a stroll around his sleepy Western town and going for an evening drink at the local bar. Lucky’s regimented routine is disturbed when he takes a fall and passes out. Despite his pack-a-day smoking habit, the doctor finds Lucky to be in exceptional health for his age. Although given the all clear, Lucky recognises that he’s inevitably deteriorating and begins to reflect on his life and search for meaning.
Logan Sparks and Drago Sumonja’s script keeps things simple plot-wise, allowing the film’s array of intriguing, authentic characters room to breathe. Stanton is of course the beating heart of the film, putting in a magnetic performance which is in turns funny, heart-breaking and bracingly honest. It helps that Stanton is basically playing an extension of himself with Lucky’s opinionated world-views and dry humour paralleling his own. His endless charm and melancholic presence helps bind together the film’s multiple strands into a satisfying whole.
Stanton receives some stellar support from a talented cast including a quirky turn from David Lynch as Howard; Lucky’s best buddy whose pet tortoise President Roosevelt has gone missing. Tom Skerritt also shines in a cameo as a fellow army veteran who shares a touching, heartfelt war story with Lucky. In a brief but scathingly funny scene, Lucky sharply deconstructs the convoluted format of Deal or No Deal to his local bartender. Packed full of witty moments, memorable characters and zingy dialogue, Lucky is simply a delight to behold.
Despite Lucky’s lack of dramatic developments, the narrative remains engrossing thanks to the film’s thoughtful interactions. There’re many intimate, elegant existential conversations over topics such as mortality, religion, loneliness, community, war and friendship. These earnest discussions are often genuinely moving and take on a heightened emotional resonance in the light of Stanton’s passing. Altogether, Lucky is a superb character piece, an affecting yet humorous meditation on life and death as well as an aptly poignant farewell for Harry Dean Stanton.