Into the void
Harry Dean Stanton shines in one of his final roles
The title character is an old Navy vet called “Lucky” who moseys through his final days in a small desert town, bantering with his old friends and an occasional nemesis at his favorite hangouts.
The movie that tells Lucky’s story is a wistfully meandering mixture of low-key comedy and anecdotal character study, and even if the actor who plays Lucky (Harry Dean Stanton) hadn’t died recently, the film itself plays like a valedictory, a mildly picaresque victory lap for the quirkily iconic geezer who is its leading player.
It’s a modest affair but consistently amusing, and Stanton’s performance as the cantankerously nonchalant Lucky is reason enough for the entire enterprise. But Lucky is no one-man show. There’s also a large and sprightly supporting cast on hand, including especially a grizzled array of veteran movie actors who seem variously well-attuned to rough-edged amiability that defines Lucky and Lucky (and reflects Stanton, as well).
The curmudgeonly standouts include David Lynch as a gentleman-naif sporting a fedora and a white linen suit; Ed Begley Jr. as the town doctor who treats Lucky with mixtures of affection and sarcasm; Tom Skerritt as an ex-Marine still spoiling for a fight; James Darren as Paulie, a well-preserved pretty boy with a touch of Hollywood flash and Las Vegas gangster to him; and Barry Shabaka Henley as the no-nonsense bartender at Lucky’s preferred watering hole.
Each of the above gets a special moment or two in the proceedings, but Lynch is particularly remarkable. He might be playing a version of himself or a version of a character he has imagined for one of his own movies. But he is excellent in a role that evokes a whole other movie’s worth of story without ever losing its plausibility in the Stantonian world of Lucky.
There are women in Lucky also, but the only real standout among them is Beth Grant as Elaine, the swanky-looking restaurateur who at first appears to be the Paulie’s trophy companion, but subsequently emerges as one of the few people in Lucky’s orbit who wields real authority.