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Just My Luck

Director: Donald Petrie
Cast: Lindsay Lohan, Chris Pine, Samaire Armstrong, Faizon Love, Bree Turner

(20th Century Fox; US theatrical: 12 May 2006; 2006)

Timing

The real me doesn’t have days like this.
—Ashley (Lindsay Lohan)


“I’m like the rest of the rabbit after they cut off the lucky foot,” moans Ashley (Lindsay Lohan). Poor girl: her sense of self wasn’t always so dire. In fact, for the first part of Just My Luck, Ashley is the luckiest girl in the world, indicated repeatedly in the least imaginative ways possible. She steps outside of her upscale Manhattan apartment building and the rain gives way to bright sunshine. A cab instantly stops for her, and once she gets to work—a posh PR firm—the crowded elevator passes her by but another one opens within second, just in time to carry her and the blandly beautiful son of an NBA team owner.


By the time Ashley reaches her floor, she’s arranged a date with David (Chris Carmack). She greets the morning’s first appointment, a time-is-money sort of record label exec named Damon Phillips (Faizon Love) plus his entourage, while her boss, Peggy (Missi Pyle), remains stuck in that first elevator, now stalled with door cracked open and emergency team called in. When Phillips threatens to walk out, Ashley handles the meeting, wows him with an on-the-fly presentation, and not only wins the account, but also, when Peggy finally emerges in a tizzy from the elevator, a promotion.


Ashley just has all the luck. Or, as one of her two interchangeable best friends puts it, “When they whacked you with the lucky stick, they whacked you silly.” That is, unless you count the fact that she’s living in this insultingly crude romantic comedy. Promoted as Lohan’s “transition” piece, as she moves from tweeny larks to more serious, so-called adult roles, Just My Luck is neither larkish nor serious, but only graceless.


The film’s clunkiness is exemplified in its first moments, as Ashley’s introduction is paralleled by that of her opposite and eventual love object, Jake (Chris Pine). He first appears as a Clark-Kent-looking “loser” (complete with glasses he keeps pushing up on his nose), who has nothing but bad luck. Cars splash puddles on him, further bedraggling his look, as he pursues Phillips (the plotty connection point between the boy and the girl), in order to deliver to him a cd made by a whitebritboy band Jake is managing. (Or that might be overstating the case: he works at a bowling alley where the band—a real-life whitebritboy group called McFly, with members playing “themselves”—has a regular gig, and Jake, unpaid, is trying to get them other work.)


Jake’s dogged pursuit of Phillips leads him to Ashley, when he illicitly enters the extravagant masquerade party she throws for Phillips’ unsubtly named label, Masquerade Records. And wouldn’t you know, Jake is wearing a mask. They meet cute, they kiss, and he “steals” her luck. From then on, Jake gets everything he wants: a face-to-face with Phillips, a contract, a new penthouse apartment, new clothes and contact lenses. Meanwhile, as she tries to figure out what hit her, Ashley is beset by dramatically bad luck: her high heel breaks, her apartment floods, she’s arrested for pimping, because she doesn’t know that her neighbor, whom she asks to be Peggy’s date at the party, is in fact a male prostitute.


Worse, the bad luck appears to make Ashley dumb. Deciding resolutely that she’ll ignore the bad luck she’s been having, Ashley makes an inexplicable decision to recover her contact lens from a used kitty litter box and put it back into her eye. (The audience at this point groans audibly.) Cut to her date with David, at a fancy gallery where his mother has a show, and Ashley’s wearing an eye patch. How piratey.


Ashley does make some nominal efforts to “get her luck back,” with the help of her infinitely patient best friends and temporary roommates, Maggie (Samaire Armstrong) and Dana (Bree Turner). They take up a corny-montagey search for the masked man, so Ashley can kiss him and suck out his/her good fortune. This after she’s informed by a gypsy fortune teller (Tovah Feldshuh) that the switch has to do with tarot cards and fortune and fate. This tangle of movie plot devices doesn’t make much sense, in that luck here becomes a function of fate that might be changed if you can only manipulate circumstances and a few hapless bystanders.


An alternative explanation, simpler and even more depressing, is that those folks with bad luck are “losers,” a term Jake applies to himself, as does his cute little girl neighbor Katy (Makenzie Vega, Alexa’s sister). Inflicting this harsh self-judgment on the resigned child seems a ploy by which the movie includes at least one member of Lohan’s erstwhile diehard constituency. When Ashley meets Katy and they bond over their shared loserness, you see at once the cruelty and the implacability of this hierarchy. Lohan, as far as you know, has never been a “loser” for a day in her life. Her seeming enchantment makes her both a star and a target, a victim of luck-stealers (say, paparazzi) and not responsible for anything that befalls her.


When Ashley loses her job and ends up working at the bowling alley where Jake used to work: for no good reason, they fall in love, and then she must decide whether to take back her luck or let him go on having a great life. That the film poses these as the only options only underlines its insipidness, as do the “comic” set pieces: Ashley falling off a ladder, Ashley cleaning stinky bathrooms, Ashley being clobbered by bowling pins, Ashley battling an over-sudsing washing machine—all standard-issue bits more tedious than delightful.


The movie means to teach Ashley a lesson with all these hardships, that she must assume responsibility, give up her sense of entitlement, and even donate her advantage to someone deserving (that she gets to make this judgment, about who “needs” her luck, raises another question concerning her capacity for decision-making and her presumption of privilege.


The greatest mystery of Just My Luck is that it so badly uses Lohan, who can be charming and, as she showed with Jamie Lee Curtis in Freaky Friday, an adept physical comedian. But here she only looks like she’s biding time.

Rating:

Cynthia Fuchs is director of Film & Media Studies and Associate Professor of English, Film & Video Studies, African and African American Studies, Sport & American Culture, and Women and Gender Studies at George Mason University.


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