Released this week on DVD, Lucky Them (IFC Films, 96 minutes, R) centers on Ellie Klug (Toni Collette), a Seattle rock journalist who’s assigned by her magazine’s editor (Oliver Platt) to search for Matthew Smith, a music legend who disappeared years ago. A reluctant Ellie is forced to write a story about her ex-boyfriend to increase the magazine’s flagging business and, in turn, save her job.
Helping Ellie’s mission is Charlie (Thomas Haden Church), an eccentric former love interest who documents (he’s an aspiring filmmaker) their journey to find her presumed dead lover. The Blacklist’s Ryan Eggold also stars as the struggling musician who romances his way into Ellie’s life and all too jaded heart.
Directed by Megan Griffiths, the project took years to get off the ground, as co-writer/producer Emily Wachtel initially pitched the project to late actor Paul Newman. Although Newman, who died in 2008, was interested in the project, his flagging health made his participation impossible (Newman’s widow Joanne Woodward is credited as an executive producer on Lucky Them).
Filmed on a shoestring budget by Megan Griffiths, Lucky Them’s biggest challenge is getting viewers to sympathize with Ellie Klug, as she comes across as self-centered and dismissive from the get go. The root of Ellie’s crisis, however, lies in her refusal to deal with her past scars and attempt to move on with the present. As a music junkie, her domicile is filled with records, CDs, and a whole pile of memories she refuses to deal with. Her quixotic mission to find Matthew may bring some much needed closure.
Thomas Haden Church brings his distinct cadence and comedic delivery to the proceedings, and Charlie is Lucky Them’s
most unpredictable element. Although the big mystery is whether Matthew is still alive, Charlie’s eccentric point of view leads to memorable exchanges with Ellie, as she eventually warms up to his refreshing candor.
Griffiths directs the film with a sure hand, as she’s not afraid to lead her story in different and unexpected directions. The final chapter, when Ellie comes face to face with a surprising revelation, gives the narrative a surprising and subtle level of resonance.
There is a slight twist to Lucky Them that, if Megan Griffiths desired, may have led to more “box-office” business to the film (it was released earlier this year). But Griffiths takes a page out of Ellie Klug’s playbooks, preferring that viewers eventually uncover the big secret sans any media fanfare. It’s a creative decision that should be applauded, as many filmmakers would have trumpeted the film’s “twist” just to scrounge up more business.
I refuse to spoil the ending of Lucky Them, and if you check out the film – try to see it with fresh eyes. Sometimes the past should be left behind, and whether it’s Seattle, Los Angeles, or the ends of the earth, playing the same old song isn’t the way to go. There’s always music just around the corner, and Lucky Them spins quite an arresting, and at times heartbreaking, tune.
Special Features: The DVD comes with a featurette and behind the scenes look at the making of Lucky Them. Both segments, though brief, offer an informative look at the diligent, 10-year journey it took to get the film made. Actors Toni Collette, Thomas Haden Church, Nina Arianda, Ryan Eggold, Ahna O’Reilly, and Oliver Platt, as well as cinematographer Ben Kutchins, director Megan Griffiths, and screenwriter/producer Emily Wachtel are among the cast and crew that are interviewed on the bonus features.
Lucky Them is now out on DVD.