Given that the late Harry Dean Stanton made a career out o f playing loveable but cranky guys, it's fitting that his final starring performance would be in Lucky, a drama about a 90-year-old atheist who seeks some kind of spiritual connection in his dying days. A well-crafted character study, actor John Carroll Lynch's directorial debut serves as a fitting farewell for Stanton. It opens on Friday at the Cedar Lee Theatre.
As the film commences, Lucky (Stanton) goes about his morning rituals. He shaves, engages in a few stretching routines and then makes himself a cup of coffee. Once outside, he lights up a cigarette and begins walking down a barren desert road. He heads to a diner where he grabs another cup of joe while he sits at the counter and does a crossword puzzle. He and the chef banter a bit, and Lucky asks one of the other patrons for a bit of help when he gets stuck on a seven-letter word for "augur." "Portend," she tells him. And so goes the typical day in the life of Lucky, a deceptively smart loner who can quote Che Guevara — in Spanish, no less!
Stanton plays the part so well that he even makes a scene during which Lucky sits in his underwear and watches TV game shows seem interesting. Additionally, Stanton perfectly captures the guy's dry sense of humor. When the bartender at the neighborhood joint he frequents tries to convince him to add Deal or No Deal to his rotation of game shows, he responds by calling it a "convoluted piece of shit."
Admittedly, too much of this movie consists of a group of guys sitting at the bar and bullshitting. And some of the meditations on life and its meaning come off as a bit forced. "Truth is a thing: it's the truth of who we are and what we do and you have to accept that and face it because the truth of the universe is waiting," says Lucky in one scene that seems like it could've been lifted from a Samuel Beckett play.
But in the end, Stanton's marvelous performance makes the film worthwhile.