Film review: LUCKY THEM (2013)

Let me begin with full disclosure. I could watch Toni Colette sleep and find it fascinating. Putting that aside - this is a little gem of an indie film. Set in Seattle at a Rolling Stonelike music magazine called STAX where Ellie Krug (Toni Collette) has been covering the alt/rock music scene for many years. She has been cruising through her job and her life on auto-pilot lately enjoying serial casual sex with young musicians as a perk of the job. It is therefore something of a shock when her boss Giles (Oliver Platt) informs her that the magazine is under pressure from the stockholders to improve their readership or down-size. That she is one of the expendables is quite a wake-up call.

Giles’s challenge to Ellie is to do an investigative piece on the mysterious disappearance of legendary singer/songwriter Matthew Smith more than ten years ago. The snag for Ellie is that she had been his girlfriend at the height of his success and she has blocked out that part of her life and is reluctant to revisit it. In fact, she is living a somewhat messy, unexamined existance. But as pressure mounts she reluctantly accepts the assignment.

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The quirkiness factor is increased by the appearance of Charlie, (Thomas Haden-Church) a tone-deaf millionaire who has tried unsuccesfully to score with Ellie. When he reappears she has bungled things due to yet another casual entanglement with an up-and-coming musician, Lucas Stone (Ryan Eggold) and she needs help. They suddenly have something to offer each other and they strike a deal. Charlie is trying to establish himself as an independent film maker and ingratiates himself into her quest to unravel the mystery of Matthew Smith. In return for his financial backing she has to allow him to film the whole process which he does with unabashed intrusiveness. They could not be more opposite. She is the epitome of jaded ennui while Charlie is a totally self-absorbed narcissist who lives in an irony-free zone. This sets up an odd-ball crosscountry road trip with an unexpected outcome which is both painful and sensitive and gives the film a depth which raises it a notch above the average.

The character of Ellie Klug is based on the experiences of the writer Emily Wachtel who also wrote the script with Huck Botko and it feels that personal. Toni Colette breathes so much believability into the reality of her character whose refusal to step outside of her comfort zone and claim some territory of her own has allowed her to live in a state of arrested development. She has not even given herself permission for a midlife crisis. Who cannot relate to that? The journey and the revelations are the necessary incidents to allow Ellie to become a whole person. And lest I make this sound too serious, rest assured, it is also light and funny.

Review by Belle McIntyre


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