Sometimes, the best is saved for last. In the case of the late Harry Dean Stanton, Lucky was a lovely parting gift before his death this past September.
The actor played a part in 200 movies and television shows, but the title role in beloved character actor John Carroll Lynch's directorial debut truly fits Stanton like a glove. Like Sam Elliott in this year's The Hero, Stanton finally gets the spotlight and owns it.
Lucky is a 91-year-old loner, a man who likes a little coffee with his milk and sugar, and treats the daily crossword puzzle in the newspaper like a fiery spouse who never lets up. He frequents a diner for a gallon of coffee and a bar by night to slowly sip Bloody Marias while the same people sit around him and bicker. There's something missing in his life, but Lucky has no need to find it or even know what it is.
Lynch's film, drawn from a screenplay by Logan Sparks and Drago Sumonja, doesn't contain a whole lot of plot movement or story depth and that works just fine. Some films just follow a person around as he interacts with people and things. If you have the right actor to hold the screen, the formula works.
Stanton was up to the task. Here's an actor who floated below the radar for 60+ years playing characters that left an impact on the viewer without allowing the patron to know his name when they left the theater. Unless you were a cinema buff, Stanton's name wouldn't ring a bell. He's worked mostly as a face of the film, but in Lucky, he's center stage. A "what you see is what you get" actor, Stanton gives the film a much-needed haunting feel that elevates certain moments. There is some fine work in this film (from the likes of David Lynch), but this is Stanton's show.
Lucky isn't a good man or a particularly bad one, only a soul just getting on. He smokes a pack of cigarettes every day but isn't in bad health. He is a medical miracle to his doctor (a very good Ed Begley Jr.), but can't seem to celebrate the fact that he is around and others are not. A veteran of the Navy, Lucky is simply content to live, but he struggles with the true meaning of life.
The film doesn't move in predictable ways and features mostly scenes that play out like a real-life moment, lending Lynch's film realism and unexpected pathos. There's a subtle humor in the way Lucky goes about his business, and against his own wishes, the audience will end up rooting for him to find some sort of happiness.
There's a scene near the end of the film where Stanton's Lucky makes his big speech about life and what it's all about, and the dialogue doesn't hold sacred ground, but the actor delivers it in such a beautiful way that it moves you. Stanton's smile was underrated and something I'll miss.
He is proof that sometimes you really don't know what you have until it is gone. Stanton may no longer be around, but his versatile resume remains. Lucky stands among some of his finest work.
When it becomes available on Blu Ray or VOD here shortly, you should give it a look.