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Tribeca Film Festival: 'Lucky Them'

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Friday, Apr 18, 2014
Lucky Them focuses on a music journalist who can't break free of her history as the girlfriend of a deceased-Seattle rock icon but this romantic comedy falls short of its potential.

Lucky Them

Director: Megan Griffiths
Cast: Toni Collette, Thomas Haden Church, Oliver Platt, Nina Arianda, Ryan Eggold, Ahna O'Reilly

(2013)

Summary: Ellie Klug has one last chance to prove her value to her aging music magazine, Stax. As luck would have it, her editor has just the assignment: a no-stone-unturned search to discover what really happened to long lost local rock god, Matt Smith. And wouldn’t you know it? Ellie and Matt have a history. Joined on the road by well-meaning but music-hating documentarian Charlie, Ellie delves into her past and quickly discovers that hype and mythology have not soothed the pain of her own experiences.
  
Ellie Klug’s (Toni Collette) life remains in limbo years after her ex-boyfriend, rock star Matthew Smith, apparently kills himself. Near the beginning of the Lucky Them, we find Klug breaking things off with a noticeably younger male musician before she crosses paths with another hunky male, Lucas (Ryan Eggold), busking. Quickly she leaves him her card, which identifies her as a journalist for the fictitious Stax magazine. Initially thinking she would do a piece on Lucas, Klug quickly turns to bedding this musician (though he presses harder for it). What Klug doesn’t realize is that she isn’t over Smith, the legendary musician whose music is known by everyone in Seattle, because there was never any closure given his disappearance.


But her editor, played by Oliver Platt, is struggling to save his print magazine and asks her to do a piece on Smith, if he’s alive, what really happened etc, because it would be hugely appealing to his readers. So, after some deliberation about whether or not she wants to dig up old ghosts, Klug agrees to do the piece. In the process of researching this story, Klug encounters Charlie (Thomas Haden Church), an ex-lover who is fabulously wealthy and amazingly eccentric.


Charlie agrees to aid Klug on her mission under the agreement that he will make a documentary of the search, but he’s never made a film before. It’s just that he is so wealthy he doesn’t work and can afford to throw money into a classy RV just before they begin. Somewhere in the story, time elapses but is hardly noted, he ends up dating a strange mystic/animal-lover, but this is only after a couple brief attempts to rekindle his prior relationship with Klug have failed. Just the random silliness by which Charlie lives, such as meeting the mystic (she was an escort), along with his often absurd statements (he doesn’t like music), that are so wryly stated by Church, make him a comic, yet heartfelt foil.


This story is semi-informed by the real life experiences of Emily Wachtel, but whatever degree of infatuation Wachtel had been in as a teen for whatever musician is not conveyed very well and this is the basis for Klug’s immaturity. Klug’s weakness for musicians seems pitiful and only her bartender friend Dana (Nina Arianda) tries to talk some sense into her. Lucky Them‘s plot failing is that both its protagonist and the secondary character are in the process of discovering themselves and at the same time trying to discover what happened to Smith. These two journeys are supposed to then intersect when they otherwise wouldn’t have (and hadn’t already given the two had dated) which is hardly believable.


I was also disappointed to see the film (accurately or not, I’ve never been there) depict Seattle’s music scene as a mono-culture of white male artists. I think the only glimpse of any minority was a moment when a vendor decorates a venue for Charlie’s wedding. And if you are looking for references to real Seattle music, aside from some Sub Pop stickers and some band posters, real music is never discussed.


Church’s character is so winsome that I might award this film higher marks than it otherwise deserves. Collette is also pretty terrific, but her character’s development is so unsatisfying—especially when given the semi-apparent conclusion. How could she have not had any other opportunity to grow up in years that have passed since Smith vanished? Her bartender friend never before pointed out she was having failed relationships with all the musicians in Seattle? How many guitarists are there? Apparently [SPOILER] Smith, the person crazy enough to pretend he committed suicide, easily moved on in his life, but Klug could not. [/SPOILER]


Much of the film should have been filled developing the history Klug had with Smith but with half it’s focus on the Lucas relationship, the story gets blurry. I was rather disappointed by this film, and I would suggest passing on it for now, even if the performances were excellent. (Sorry Church.)


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