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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 DVD: 22 Aug 2006)

Whacked

“The Look of Luck,” according to the two-minute (and only) featurette on the Just My Luck DVD, is a function of “Lindsay.” As costume designer Gary Jones puts it, “We all know Lindsay, and the visual idea of her, and have grown up with her.” Aside from the fact that he is too old to have “grown up” with La Lohan, Jones’ point may warrant consideration—for a minute, anyway.


An erstwhile Disney cutie who has spent quality screen time with Natasha Richardson, Carol Kane, and Jamie Lee Curtis, Lohan has been mightily visible for much of her life. That she has recently become overexposed via run-ins with the paparazzi is a sad turn of events, though not necessarily tragic. The fact that Meryl Streep has praised her talents for W magazine (“She’s in command of the art form, Whatever acting is—I don’t know what it is—she’s in command of it. I think she could do anything she puts her mind to”) bodes well, though the related fact that Streep was asked to comment on Lohan’s “partying” suggests too many people are interested in this non-news.


Though most young celebrities don’t feel compelled to present as “role models” anymore, they are regularly warned about the dangers bad behaviors pose to their careers. This even as they see adults acting out and doing just fine, thanks. The question concerning Lohan at this point—as raised by Gary Jones—is whether this antipathy toward performing certain public functions makes a difference: will she be a model anyway? If so, how is that modeling filtered through tabloids, magazine spreads, movie roles, talk show appearances, and red carpet stand-ups? It’s repeatedly news when someone notices that Lohan is looking thin, has checked into a hospital for “exhaustion,” or is engaged in yet another familial meltdown. Is that what it means to “grow up” with her? To keep tabs on her every move?


Just My Luck vaguely addresses this problematic, and not only in the “look” of Lohan’s costumes as a means to “find her character,” namely, Ashley. Initially a “model” for her friends and colleagues, she leads a charmed life, the sort of scarily fortunate existence that only happens in movies like this: as soon as she steps out of her upscale Manhattan apartment building, 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 seconds, just in time to carry her and the blandly beautiful son of an NBA team owner, David (Chris Carmack).


In her office, Ashley greets the morning’s first appointment, a time-is-money sort of record label exec named Damon (Faizon Love), plus his entourage, while her boss, Peggy (Missi Pyle), remains stuck in that now-stalled first elevator. Ashley handles Damon 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. As one of Ashley’s two interchangeable best friends observes, “When they whacked you with the lucky stick, they whacked you silly.”


Just so, the turnaround is even sillier. Just My Luck invites you to delight in Ashley/Lohan’s fall from grace, which occurs when she kisses her opposite, the boy with the worst luck in the world, Jake (Chris Pine). He first appears as a Clark-Kent-looking “loser” (complete with glasses he keeps pushing up on his nose), splashed by puddle-cruising cars and unable to get the dull whitebritboy band he manages, McFly (a real band, with members playing “themselves”) a gig.


When Jake steals Ashley’s luck, he starts getting everything he wants: a face-to-face with Damon, a contract, a penthouse apartment, new clothes and contact lenses. As she tries to figure out what hit her, Ashley is beset by dramatically bad luck (see also: the Duff sisters’ riff on the same theme, Material Girls, released after Lohan’s). Her 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.


She also turns completely stupid. The clever girl who could wow a client with a spontaneous presentation suddenly has no intellectual resources: she makes an inexplicable decision to recover her contact lens from a dirty cat litter box and put it back into her eye. Cut to her date with David, at a fancy gallery where his mother has a show, and Ashley’s wearing an eye patch and proceeds to wreck the art piece the mother has sop carefully arranged.


Ashley’s efforts to “get her luck back” are aided by those best friends, Maggie (Samaire Armstrong) and Dana (Bree Turner), not to mention a gypsy fortune teller (Tovah Feldshuh), who informs her of power of “fate,” now doing its work on her. The movie’s alternative explanation 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). Inflicting this harsh self-judgment on the resigned child seems a ploy by which the movie includes at least one member of Lohan’s lingering tweeny fan base. Ashley and Katy bond over their shared loserness, making Lohan look for a moment like the cute little loser girl, and by extension, you, dear DVD viewer.


The relation of luck to popularity, success, victory, and happiness is all a “look,” it seems, an illusion that allows you to resign to the fact that you’ll never live Lohan’s life, whether you see it as charmed or deeply uncharmed. Because it’s public, you might feel some claim to it, even some call to judge it. But, as Just My Luck has it, consumers’ sense of celebrity ownership and obligation is either fate or loser’s jealousy. Either way, you can look and never touch.


The movie means to teach Ashley a lesson, that she must take responsibility for her fortune good or ill, give up her sense of entitlement, and even donate her advantage to someone deserving. As Lohan moves on to more overtly post-tween parts, in Prairie Home Companion (she’s Streep’s daughter, but not embarrassing or contrived), in the “assassination” movies Bobby and in Chapter 27, you might wish her luck.

Rating:

Extras 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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Just My Luck -- Trailer
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